How to safely buy prescription drugs online

Last week I shared my thoughts on why self-pay patients shouldn’t be buying prescription drugs from overseas. I thought I’d follow up with a related and somewhat overlapping topic, buying prescription drugs online. As with just about any other product, buying prescription drugs online can produce significant savings.

There are a number of legitimate sites online that allow people to order their medicines online, but there are also a lot of sites that are not. One convenient tool I found for determining whether an online pharmacy is legit or not is LegitScript.com. The founder of the site, John Horton, explains here what they do and why they do it:

A Message from LegitScript Founder and President, John Horton

I believe that online pharmacies represent a lot of promise. Standing at the intersection of technology and health care, safe online pharmacies are not only convenient, but they can also help keep costs down.

The problem is, only 2% – 3% of all Internet pharmacies meet LegitScript’s standards for safety and legality – standards that are endorsed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. By contrast, well over 90% of Internet pharmacies are outright illegal, selling prescription drugs without a valid prescription; offering unregulated and potentially unsafe pharmaceuticals; and/or lacking required pharmacy licenses. The rogue Internet pharmacy market is a multi-billion dollar market, and these shady websites’ mission isn’t to help others – but to turn a profit even if it means putting people and pets at risk.

I founded LegitScript to bring transparency and accountability to the online pharmacy market. Along the way, those who operate, support and profit from illicit online pharmacies – including websites deceptively marketed as “Canadian” Internet pharmacies – have come to consider LegitScript as a significant threat to their illegal businesses. For me, and for the rest of the LegitScript team, that’s a badge of honor…

Above all, stay safe on the Internet: if you are in the US and choose to fill a prescription online, make sure that the Internet pharmacy is VIPPS accredited by the NABP, or LegitScript approved.

The site offers a complete list of the 214 pharmacies that are LegitScript-approved. Many of the names on the list will be familiar to most people, such as Albertsons, Costco, CVS, and other brick-and-mortar retailers that also offer online prescription drug services. Some, like Express Scripts and OptumRX, are online-only mail order pharmacies. There are also sites for pet medicines and also specialty pharmacies, such as FreedomFertility.com, which offers medicines for infertility treatment.

Legit Script isn’t the only site offering this sort of ‘quality control’ over online pharmacies. Another is PharmacyChecker.com, although the fact that they include foreign pharmacies makes me leery of them. They do note on their site that personal importation of foreign drugs is “generally permitted but not technically legal.” Which I suppose is one way of putting it!

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy also offers a program to verify that online pharmacies comply with state and federal laws, called the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program. You can find the list of VIPPS pharmacies here.

All of these have some overlap of course, but there are also some that are on one site but not the others. For example, HealthWarehouse.com appears on  the VIPPS list, but not on Legit Scripts.

Finally, I wanted to share here the excellent webinar by NeedyMeds.com on the subject of safe online purchases of prescription drugs. It runs about 35 minutes, and is packed with extremely helpful information.

Buying prescription drugs online can be a great way to save money, but as with just about everything else in the self-pay patient world, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Watching the NeedyMeds video and being a cautious online shopper will help to ensure you’re doing it the right way.

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One Response to How to safely buy prescription drugs online

  1. Eric says:

    My experience is that there isn’t much variance in what the online “legit” US pharmacies charge for expensive prescription medications. So, even the cheapest may still be affordable for many. If one truly can’t afford an expensive medication, there is another legit way of sourcing it … by applying for prescription assistance from the manufacture. I love the directory at needymeds.org. Pharma companies aren’t “evil empires”. Most of them are very generous with their assistance for those who genuinely need it. …. Even though they love to gouge the big bureaucratic insurance companies who are willing to pay for it … haha

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