Using Online Pharmacies
An Internet pharmacy can offer low cost and convenience. Learn how to choose one that is safe and reliable.
More people are now having their prescriptions filled over the Internet. Buying online can sometimes help you realize substantial savings and convenience. But it also helps to be a smart consumer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says many online pharmacies are licensed and serve people with the same expertise and reliability as brick-and-mortar companies. So how do you find one that’s dependable? The answer lies in knowing what to look for.
For starters, you should only use outlets that provide a physical address. Otherwise, how will you know where to send your prescriptions? It’s also important to have some other kind of contact information, such as a telephone or fax number. This is so your doctor can contact the pharmacy if the need ever arises.
You also should be cautious when buying from pharmacies outside the U.S. Certain countries don’t hold medical manufacturers to the same standards. The medicines you get may not be as effective and could even be harmful. If you’re worried about this, your doctor may be able to recommend an online pharmacy to you.
Best online sources
Another way to be certain is to check the site’s accreditation. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) reviews and certifies online pharmacy practice sites. Entities that qualify are given the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal of approval. The VIPPS seal should be on the Web site of an approved online pharmacy.
The seal identifies Internet pharmacies that are properly licensed for online trade and have passed criteria review. The review includes inspections of all facilities that are used to receive, process and dispense medicine. VIPPS also has compliance standards for:
- Patient privacy rights
- Authentication and security of drug orders
- Quality assurance and improvement programs
- Consultation between patients and pharmacists
Be a smart consumer
Even if you think that an online pharmacy is reliable, it’s important to look at how it operates. Be wary of online sites where:
- No prescription is required.
- Prescriptions are dispensed solely on the basis of an online questionnaire. A reputable pharmacist will require evidence you saw a doctor.
- There is no way to consult with a pharmacist.
- You are requested to sign a waiver. Lawful pharmacies don’t ask patients to sign documents that waive all rights or put people in legal jeopardy.
Being a smart consumer can help ensure the online pharmacy you use is reliable. If there’s one you’re interested in, check its VIPPS accreditation. You can do this by visiting the VIPPS Web site at http://www.vipps.info.