How to Buy Medicines Safely From an Online Pharmacy


Given the ever-increasing cost of drugs, especially cancer drugs it is very tempting to consider buying your medicines from an online pharmacy.

This practice can save you money, but it also can backfire and hurt you.  You need to develop ways to protect yourself and your family by using caution when buying medicine online. 

There are many pharmacy websites that operate legally.  They can offer you convenience, privacy, and safeguards.  However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many dangerous and rogue online pharmacies claim to sell prescription medicines at deeply discounted prices.  Often, these rogue pharmacies will supply you what they claim to be your medication without even requiring a valid prescription. 

Don’t be fooled; these Internet-based pharmacies often sell unapproved or counterfeit medicines outside the safeguards followed by licensed pharmacies.  

Many people believe that the pharmacies based in Canada provide a safe place to buy their medications.  Don't fall into the trap, buying online from a site that prominently displays a Canadian flag does not guarantee that the vendor is a regulated pharmacy located in Canada.  It may be operated by criminals from the other side of the globe with no connection to Canada. 

Despite how much money you can save you must remember that any medicine bought from these websites can be dangerous to you and your family.  These medications may put your health at risk.

The FDA offers a program called  BeSafeRx.  This program can help you identify and avoid fake online pharmacies.

Signs of a Rogue Online Pharmacy

The FDA warns that we need to beware of online pharmacies that:

•   Allow you to buy prescription medication without a valid prescription from your licensed healthcare provider.
•   Do not have a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
•   Offer low prices that seem too good to be true (they probably are too good to be true).
•   Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap medicine.
•   Are located outside of the United States or ship worldwide.

These pharmacies often sell medicines that can be dangerous. They may have too much or too little of the active ingredient you need to treat your disease or condition.  They may not contain the right active ingredient, or they might include the wrong or another harmful ingredient.  They might not have been appropriately stored so the actual chemicals change or become ineffective.  

Know the Signs of a Safe Online Pharmacy

Not all online pharmacies are unsafe.  The trick is to be able to identify those that are safe.  Safe online pharmacies will always:

•   Require a valid prescription from a licensed healthcare professional.
•   Are licensed by your state board of pharmacy, or equivalent state agency. (To verify the licensing status of a pharmacy check your state board of pharmacy.)  
•   Do not appear on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s “List of Not Recommended Websites.” However, remember just because the online pharmacy is not on this list does not mean it is safe.)
•   Have a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
•   Are in the United States, and provide a street address.

You can also check on a website to find out if it is safe by looking for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites(™) Seal, also known as the VIPPS® Seal.  This seal means that the Internet pharmacy is safe to use because it has met state licensure requirements, as well as other NABP criteria. Visit the VIPPS website to find legitimate pharmacies that carry the VIPPS® seal.

Shop Safely Online

Shopping online for your medications can be safe, and it can save you money.  However, you need to exercise extra caution to protect yourself.  If you do come across a bogus online pharmacy, please report it to the FDA.

You should also report any adverse effects that you experience which are caused by any medication you take to the  FDA’s MedWatch program