Online Pharmacies: Shopping Safely

Convenience and saving money are two great reasons why people buy their diabetes and other prescription drugs online.

While there are many excellent online pharmacies to choose from, there are also unlicensed and fake pharmacies vying for consumer business.

To safeguard your health and your cash, follow these simple do’s and don’ts for online medication purchases.

Five Online Pharmacy Do’s

  1. Only fill prescriptions written by a medical professional who knows you—someone who has taken your medical history, listened to your current concerns, and completed applicable physical examinations and tests.
  2. Make sure your online pharmacy is licensed and in good standing with The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Medications sold by questionable pharmacies may have no active medicinal ingredients. At best these drugs are ineffective, or worse, they might be harmful. Legitimate pharmacy sites often display a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites seal of approval. You can also check a web pharmacy using an online tool at The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies website.
  3. Choose a site that offers toll-free access to a registered pharmacist. You may have questions about drug side effects or interactions with other medications.
  4. There are good deals for prescription meds online, but beware of prices that are considerably lower than your town’s pharmacies. Deep discounts can be a red flag.
  5. Before hitting the purchase button, verify that the site protects your personal information, health history, and credit card information. If you experience problems with the order (e.g., fails to arrive, unauthorized charges on your card) report it to the FDA. Reporting problems helps maintain a safe online marketplace.

Also, after your medication arrives, DO verify that:

  • The medication packaging is intact.
  • The medication name is correct, and your name is correctly printed on the drug label.
  • The dosage matches the one on the prescription, and the drug expiration date is clearly printed.

If anything about the order concerns you, check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking the drug.

Online Pharmacy Don’ts

What would a list of do’s be without a couple of common sense don’ts?

  1. Don’t purchase from sites that sell medications without a doctor’s prescription. There are online pharmacies that will violate U.S. law and sell drugs to people who fill out a "medical" questionnaire. Their medications are likely inexpensive but may be ineffective or harmful.
  2. Don’t order from sites that offer no street address, phone number, or only provide foreign contact information. There may be no way to verify the pharmacy’s legitimacy, and some international pharmacies sell drugs unapproved by the FDA. Importing these drugs into the U.S. is illegal, and might prove to be a health-hazard.

A final don’t: don’t let those willing to take advantage of consumers prevent you from enjoying good prescription deals. By shopping within established safeguards, using common sense, and listening to your intuitive concerns, you can save time and money by purchasing medications online.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Rachel Johnson

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