For years consumers have been weary of online pharmacies. Even with the entrance of 1800 Contacts in 1995, which streamlined ordering for all of the major vision care companies, online pharmacies for prescription drugs are still not widely used or trusted by consumers--and for good reason. Until recently, there was not a way to identify online scams, and even now consumers stick with walk-in pharmacies where they can talk with a pharmacist and make transactions in person.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suggests consumers look for the following when searching for legitimate online pharmacies:
- They will require a prescription from a licensed doctor, usually by mail (if fax copies are accepted, they will call and verify with the doctor)
- They make you submit a detailed medical history
- They clearly state their payment, privacy, and shipping fees on their sites; and
- They use secure or encrypted website connections for transactions.
Many large pharmacy and drugstore chains have begun online pharmacy sales through their company websites. Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS are just a few that transfer prescriptions, fill and ship meds, and offer account management all from your smartphone app or computer. It is easy to use these online pharmacies by creating an online account, especially if you already use the pharmacy for your prescription meds. For lesser known online pharmacies, it’s important to do your homework and use your personal discretion to protect yourself and your health. Do not put your health in the hands of scam artists and amateurs.
If an online pharmacy boasts of incredible bargains, it may be a scam. If the deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. If they sell meds without a prescription, that is a no-no. It’s illegal to buy from them, and they’re breaking multiple laws by selling drugs online.
To make sure you’re buying from a trusted pharmacy, and the process is overseen by a licensed pharmacist, look for a URL that ends in .pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) vets .pharmacy applicants thoroughly to insure they operate a safe and legitimate business in accordance with NABP standards. Once approval is granted, the online pharmacy is monitored and must maintain proper standard to keep the .pharmacy name.
The first medication available online directly through the manufacturer’s website was Viagra, in a bold move to pull the rug out from under counterfeiters. In 2013, Viagra began selling “the little blue pill” directly through their website, requiring prescriptions, and mailing out packages to protect patient anonymity. Since then, more meds have become available through manufacturers and online pharmacies have become more prevalent and transparent. To avoid scams associated with counterfeit manufacturer sites, check the URL before making purchases, and do not purchase from websites that do not require a prescription.
Instead of finding an online pharamcy, use one that you already trust. Ask your local pharmacy or drugstore chain if there is an online option so you can avoid running out of meds and handle refills from the comfort of your home.