Many of us are doing more and more online shopping, and so inevitably we wonder if we should buy medication online too. Beyond the simple convenience, the cost savings are certainly tempting, especially when dealing with an expensive chronic condition. However, the world of online prescription drugs is one that needs to be navigated with caution. Counterfeit medicine is abundant, and the old saying that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” was never more apt.
There are both legitimate and illegitimate online pharmacies, and the trick to buying medicine online successfully is to be able to tell the difference. By taking the time to gain a little knowledge, you too can be an informed consumer and avoid getting burned.
Here are signs of a reputable and safe online pharmacy:
- They require that you submit a prescription from your doctor. Usually they will ask for this by mail. If they allow you to send a fax or a scanned copy, they should then check with your doctor to make sure that the prescription is legitimate. Avoid sites that will send you medicine just on the basis of a questionnaire, without requiring you to visit your doctor.
- They should also require that you fill out a detailed profile that includes your medical history.
- You should be able to speak to a licensed pharmacist who can answer any questions you might have.
- The pharmacy should be located in the United States. Many online pharmcies are located abroad. The prices may be cheap, but as much as 40% of the medicine in these countries is counterfeit, so you’re much more likely to not get what you paid for, or even something that’s safe to consume.
- You can easily find and understand the website’s various policies regarding privacy, shipping, and payment.
Officials recommend that you only use sites that have accreditation from an organization called Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). This insures that the company has gone through a rigorous review process and on-site inspection. You can find a list of pharmacies that have achieved this accreditation at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
When your order arrives, make sure that all the information on the label is correct, including your name and the name of the medication. Make sure that the dosage you’ve been given matches what the doctor ordered. Also keep an eye out for packaging that seems to be tampered with. If this is a medication you’ve taken before, compare its color, shape, and size with what you’ve taken previously. Do you see, taste, or smell any differences? You should also be able to easily verify that the medicine has not expired. If you have any doubt about what you’ve received, don’t take the medication until you’ve spoken with your doctor or pharmacist. This may be a hassle that negates the convenience of online shopping, but it’s much easier than making a mistake that could be costly or lead to further health problems.