The number of online pharmacies is becoming more prevalent and for some, more convenient.
Online pharmacies offer similar services to local pharmacies such as:
- Dispensing and delivering prescriptions
- Addressing customer questions and concerns
- Providing customers with the necessary information to ensure the correct use of each medication
Some online pharmacies allow customers to enter the names of medications to check for adverse reactions that could result.
Here’s what to know about safely using online pharmacies — and some cautions about unsafe pharmacy sites.
1. They Can be Convenient
Many people choose online pharmacies for the sake of convenience. Online pharmacies can deliver to your home or work, charging a small shipping fee. However, a shipment can take anywhere from two – 12 days, or more, to arrive.
Online pharmacies also offer a great deal of information about medications, medical conditions and price lists.
2. They Can Save You Money
Lower prices are sometimes a benefit of online pharmacies, especially with generic medications. Prices can change quickly in order to stay competitive. Remember to account for sales tax, shipping and handling fees when purchasing your medications online.
It is also said that Canada’s prescription drugs are priced much lower than in the U.S. However, it is important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally prohibits the importation of foreign-made versions of prescription medications that are commercially available in the US.
So if you choose to purchase medications online via websites from other countries, understand that it may not be legal.
3. They are Regulated
Online pharmacies are regulated by state boards of pharmacy. An online pharmacy has to comply with the regulations of the state in which their business is physically located. Federal agencies, such as the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), also assist in this regulation.
4. They Follow Safety Protocols
Certain websites require that a prescription is sent directly from the doctor’s office before the medication is dispensed. This can delay the shipping time.
However, other sites that are NOT approved may not require proof of a prescription, physical exam or other health information in order to dispense a medication. This is not legal or very safe.
5. They Offer Security and Privacy
If the site is secure — a yellow padlock in the right corner of the page and the web page’s address changing to yellow and from “http” to “https” — you can expect to have a safe shopping experience.
Customers also prefer to use online pharmacies for privacy reasons – unlike a local pharmacy, the online pharmacy won’t be able to put a face to a medication.
Online Pharmacies and Safety Issues
But not all online pharmacies are safe — or legal. Of the more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online to US consumers, the NABP found approximately 96% of them to be operating illegally, placing patients’ health at risk.
To address concerns about unscrupulous or illegal online pharmacies, the NABP established the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™or VIPPS® program, which accredits those online pharmacies that meet state and federal laws. (Look for the VIPPS seal of approval.) VIPPS-certified pharmacies are required to offer their customers free phone consultation with a pharmacist. Many offer free ask-a-pharmacist e-mail service as well.
PharmacyChecker.com collects, evaluates, and reports credentials, prices, and customer feedback regarding pharmacies that operate online and through mail-order and fax (generally referred to as “online pharmacies”). It’s an affiliate of ConsumerLab.com, LLC. — an independent evaluator of dietary supplements and nutrition products — but not affiliated with any pharmacy or any manufacturer or distributor of health products.
The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared their real-life advice; always check with a doctor or other appropriate medical professional you trust before making any healthcare changes.
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