Purchasing drugs safely online

Shopping at legal online pharmacies may make sense for some consumers, but it’s important to know what to look for.

Legal online pharmacies clearly reveal their physical business address, contact information, and state license information. For prescription medicines, a legitimate pharmacy will always require customers to get a doctor’s prescription before they sell the medicine.

While there are many legitimate online pharmacies to choose from, there are also numerous fraudulent pharmacies on the web. Fortunately, there are several red flags that point to an online pharmacy being illegal, such as:

  • Giving the option of not having a prescription

  • Omitting contact information, such as a physical U.S. street address

  • Failing to provide a U.S.- licensed pharmacist for consultation

  • Offering drugs at drastically discounted prices

  • Offering drugs that make exaggerated claims of providing a cure for chronic or life-threatening illnesses

  • Offering to ship prescriptions from other countries to the United States

  • Requiring payment via direct transfers between banks or money transfer services like PayPal and Google Pay; and

  • Not being clearly verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Pharmacy Verified Websites Program or LegitScript.

It is illegal in most cases for people to import drugs into the United States for personal use. There are two concerns about having pharmacies in other countries fill prescriptions. Some products have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use and sale in the U.S. and the FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of medicine purchased over the internet from a foreign country. You can learn more here.

When buying medication online, consumers should know where the product is coming from and that the medicine is being sold by a pharmacy that is located and licensed in the United States.

Consult your health care provider if you are unsure about the safety of your medicine.

Bottom line: The convenience and cost-savings of ordering online from a sketchy website is just not worth the risks.

Consumers should also inspect packaging to look for signs of tampering or that the product could be a fake. Compare the product with one that was known to come from a legitimate source. Look for:

  • Discrepancies with active ingredients or dosage amounts
  • Spelling errors
  • Poor print quality
  • Broken seals/packages