DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is it safe to order prescription drugs from an online pharmacy?
ANSWER: Ordering online can be convenient. But if you choose go through an online pharmacy to fill your prescriptions, be careful. You need to make sure the pharmacy you use is credible and properly licensed. Keep in mind, too, that if you use an online pharmacy, it’s still worthwhile to get to know your local pharmacist. That way, if questions or concerns come up, you have someone you trust that you can go to for reliable information.
There are about 4 billion prescriptions filled in the United States every year. Americans spend more than $300 billion a year on prescription drugs. Patients looking to save money may turn to online pharmacies, which offer to fill prescriptions at reduced costs. Many online pharmacies are legitimate. But, not all Web sites that offer prescription drugs can be trusted. Some are not pharmacies at all. With that in mind, it’s very important that you take steps to help ensure your own safety when deciding to use an online pharmacy.
First, make sure the online pharmacy you’re considering is licensed in the state where it operates within the United States. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy can tell you whether an online pharmacy is licensed and in good standing. Some online pharmacy sites carry a seal of approval from Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or VIPPS. To gain this approval, they must maintain state licenses and allow inspections by the state Board of Pharmacy under which they are licensed.
Take a close look at the contact information a site provides. Do not use a Web site that doesn’t provide a street address and phone number or that lists only foreign contact information. Use only U.S. pharmacies. International pharmacies may sell drugs that do not have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, or drugs that are illegal in the United States.