Have you checked out the online pharmacy sites? Aren’t they wild? So many drugs, so cheap, so tempting. And there are national pharmacy chain sites, too, and mail-order programs offered by insurers. But do be careful. While buying your prescriptions from online vendors is routinely suggested as a terrific way to save both time and money, as with everything else, you need to keep your wits about you.
If you are considering buying your prescription drugs online, here are some do’s:
- Do, always, consult your physician. Be sensible here, you’re a grown up. Only take meds prescribed for you by your doctor or healthcare professional. Prescribed by someone who actually knows you. Only your doctor can be certain if a particular drug is safe and appropriate for your condition.
- Do read the security and privacy policies. Do not even think of placing an order unless you are confident that your personal information, including your credit card number and your health information, is securely protected.
- Do use only a licensed pharmacy. Go to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to verify that the online pharmacy you are considering is licensed and in good standing. There are some sites that carry a seal of approval from Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). In order to earn this seal, sites must maintain state licenses and permit inspections by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
- Do insist on having access to a registered pharmacist. If you have questions about a medication once you start taking it, or if you are concerned about drug reactions or interactions, you will want to speak with a pharmacist. Reputable sites offer toll-free access to registered pharmacists to help with your questions. And some online pharmacies also have regular brick-and-mortar locations you could visit.
- Do compare prices. Here again, use your head. If the online price is hugely lower, ask yourself how this possible. Is the site legit? And while you may find great deals online, do not forget to check your local pharmacy’s price, too. It may be cheaper to go there than it is to order online.
- Do watch for counterfeits and unsealed packaging. People who have ordered drugs online have wound up taking the wrong medication or have purchased drugs with no active ingredients. You protect yourself better from these possibilities when you use only legitimate online vendors. Use no drugs that arrive in altered or unsealed packaging. Ever.
- Don’t order medications not approved by the FDA. The Food and Drug Administration is there to protect us. It is illegal to import unapproved drugs into the US. And using an unsafe or untested or inappropriate drug can have devastating consequences.
- Don’t use sites that bypass prescriptions. It is a violation of US law to dispense medication without a valid prescription. Period. An online questionnaire is not a prescription. Period.
- Don’t overlook address and phone number details. See only foreign contact information on the site you’ve found? Don’t go there. Can’t seem to find a phone number or street address? Don’t go there. Buy only from US pharmacies. International pharmacies may be selling drugs that are illegal in the US, or do not have FDA approval.
- Don’t forget to complain. Report to the FDA any problems you have with an online site. Your order didn’t arrive? Report it at once. Finding some unauthorized charges on your card? Report it. Any other complaints? Let the FDA know.
- Your name is correctly printed on the Rx label.
- The dosage matches the prescription.
- The name of the medication is correct.
- The packaging is intact.
- The expiration date is clearly indicated.