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Online Prescriptions: Tips on Staying Safe

By Sally Aquire

prescription medicationMy cat was recently diagnosed with kidney and thyroid problems and has been prescribed medication to control the symptoms or delay the inevitable. I was happy to pay the prices marked out by our local veterinary surgeon because I assumed that the costs would be much the same across the board. Last week, a friend casually mentioned that she was contemplating buying medication for her three cats online after stumbling across various websites that were selling the same medications as her veterinary surgeon, but for a much cheaper price. This got me thinking about buying prescription medication in general via the Internet, and how to know if you’re really getting such a good bargain in reality. What kind of things should you be keeping an eye out for if you’re looking for a reputable online pharmacy to buy prescription medication from?

Check that it’s a U.S. pharmacy. If an online pharmacy is not operating out of the U.S., it’s likely that the medication that they dispense are not FDA approved. As well as being potentially unsafe, it’s also illegal to import drugs that haven’t been approved by the FDA.

Contact information. If an online pharmacy doesn’t provide contact details, it can be difficult or impossible to know exactly where it is located. As mentioned in the above point, online pharmacies that aren’t located in the U.S. can’t necessarily be relied upon to dispense FDA approved medications.

Licensing. While there are some perfectly legitimate online pharmacies, not all of them are reputable and above reproach. Because of this, be sure to do some background research before you buy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is a good indicator as to whether a particular online pharmacy is licensed and trustworthy. If an online pharmacy is open to inspections from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and maintains state licenses, it can be granted the seal of approval from the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). In particular, online pharmacies should be licensed by the state board of pharmacy in the state that it is operating in.

Examples of online pharmacies that have the VIPPS seal of approval:

For online pet pharmacies, you also need to check the licensing to make sure that it’s all above board. For example, Pet Nutrition Products is a licensed US pharmacy and only sells pet medications that have been approved by the FDA or the EPA. In addition, the National Association of Pet Pharmacies (NAPP) checks to see if online pet pharmacies meet both state and federal requirements, are licensed in the states that they operate in, and only dispense medication that is approved by the FDA or the EPA. Examples of online pet pharmacies that are verified by the NAPP or the VIPPS are:

Prescriptions should be mandatory. Any online pharmacy that dispenses prescription medication without requesting to see proof of a valid prescription from a doctor is breaking the law.

Access to professionals. The more reputable online pharmacies will often offer the opportunity to speak to licensed pharmacists or vets (preferably on a toll-free basis) if you have any problems with or concerns about using medication after it’s been ordered from the website. Alternatively, an online pharmacy may function alongside a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy that you can visit to seek advice in person. For example, CVS Pharmacy is an online pharmacy that also has a physical presence.

The prices aren’t significantly lower than drug stores. When it comes to prescription medication, cheap isn’t necessarily good. If an online pharmacy is selling prescription medication at a price that is a lot less than the drug stores, it can be a big red flag that the medications will be sub-standard or even counterfeit.

Buying prescription medication online can be a risky proposition but doing some research before you buy can reduce the chances of being sucked in by a bogus online pharmacy. Prices can be cheaper online but beware of those that are signficantly chepaer than you’d find in the drug store because this can suggest inferior quality or even be illegal. Do you have any additional tips for staying safe when buying prescription medication online? If you’ve had success buying prescription medications online, which online pharmacies can you recommend to other readers?

(photo credit: Be.Futureproof)

Sally Aquire
Sally is a UK-based freelance writer. As well as personal finance, she also writes on health & beauty and lifestyle topics. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, shopping, hanging out with friends and generally making the most of her downtime!

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