What You Should Know About Online Pharmacies

4 minute read

By Heather Fishel

In today’s ecommerce landscape, you can conveniently buy just about anything online – including prescription medications. Start a search to find reputable online pharmacies to get a great price on your medications.

More people are turning to the internet to find alternatives for their prescription drugs. Instead of paying high prices at local pharmacies, it’s possible to safely purchase the same medications from an online pharmacy.

Types of Online Pharmacies

Before you make a purchase from an online pharmacy, it’s important to understand the different types of pharmacies that exist online. Buying prescription drugs from an online pharmacy is legal – but only if certain rules are followed. Whether or not it’s legal to purchase prescriptions online depends on factors like:

It’s a good idea to research whether or not online pharmacies are legal in your specific area before you make a purchase.

The type of pharmacy you order from also determines whether or not your purchase is legal. There are three primary types of online pharmacies: retail pharmacies that have websites, network or mail-order pharmacies, and online-only pharmacies.

Local Drugstore and Pharmacy Websites

These types of online pharmacies are reputable and trustworthy. They are websites, or online pharmacies, that are operated by well-known drugstores. You can either shop these drugstores and pharmacies at physical locations near you, or you may be able to have your prescriptions filled right on their website. Local drugstores and pharmacies that have online pharmacies include stores such as CVS and Walgreens, but you can find other options in your area with a quick online search.

Network or Mail-Order Pharmacies

Health insurance companies often work with network or mail-order pharmacies. These types of pharmacies, which can operate online, handle larger amounts of prescription drugs and may offer lower prices. Generally, network or mail-order pharmacies are as legitimate as local pharmacies. Reputable options include Caremark, Express Scripts, and Medco, but it’s best to check with your insurance company to see if there’s a preferred pharmacy.

Online-Only Pharmacies

Online-only pharmacies are pharmacies that do not have a physical presence. Instead these pharmacies operate entirely online. Online-only pharmacies are the most difficult type to verify. You’ll need to do careful research in order to make certain that an online-only pharmacy sells legal medications in order to be safe.

How to Spot Unsafe or Counterfeit Online Pharmacies

Being able to determine which online pharmacies are legitimate and which are unsafe is critical. You need to vet an online pharmacy thoroughly before placing an order. Otherwise, you may place an order with a rogue pharmacy that sells unapproved, counterfeit, or dangerous drugs.

Fortunately, the FDA offers a BeSafeRX program that can help you identify which pharmacies are legitimate. Here are a few signs the FDA recommends looking for when you’re checking out online pharmacies:

Signs of a Legitimate, Safe Online Pharmacy

It’s also important to know how to spot an authentic, legitimate pharmacy online. Remember, not all online pharmacies are bad – there are ways to order your prescription medication online without any worry.

According to the FDA, the hallmarks of a safe online pharmacy include:

How to Safely Order Medication From an Online Pharmacy

After you’ve properly vetted and verified an online pharmacy, you’ll be ready to place an order. And ordering from an online pharmacy has the potential to save you both time and money.

Before you place your order, make sure you get all of the information you can about the price of your prescription medications. You should look at and compare pricing from different reputable online pharmacies. You can also look for discounts and coupons, as well as the cost of generic versus name brand medications.

Then, see if you’re able to use your health insurance to reduce or eliminate the cost of your medication. Check with your insurance company to see if they have a recommended online pharmacy.

Start a Search

Ultimately, the most important thing you need to remember when considering an online pharmacy is careful research. If you do careful online research, compare different pharmacies, and verify that a pharmacy is legitimate, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’ve ordered the right medication.

Heather Fishel