Online Pharmacies Provide Savings on Prescriptions — as Long as You Can Spot the Fakes

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If you take prescription medications, you know that the cost of getting prescriptions filled has gone up in the past few years. At some point, you may have even had to choose between buying the medication you need and paying for other necessities. 

If you’ve heard about the savings offered by online pharmacies, you might be thinking about using one to reduce your prescription costs. They can, indeed, provide a safe, reliable, affordable option for those struggling with drug costs. Many cut out the middleman and produce their own generic versions of common medications, allowing them to provide quality prescriptions at a fraction of the cost of local pharmacies.

Other advantages of online pharmacies include specialized packaging, shipping options and convenient auto-refills. Many community pharmacies have embraced telemedicine, which means you may be able to use your local pharmacy to fill your prescriptions without the need to make a trip to the drug store. 

Using an online pharmacy is easy as long as you have a cell phone or access to the internet. For non-prescription drugs, you can simply select what you need online, just as you would at your local drug store. For prescription medications, your physician can send the prescription directly to the pharmacy. 

In most instances, you’ll receive your medication from an online pharmacy 8 to 14 days after placing your order, so if you need a prescription filled immediately, you’re better off going to your local drug store. Brick-and-mortar pharmacies can also help control your costs by dividing the prescription in half, an option that is not available in all online pharmacies.

Unfortunately, you also may have also heard that not-so-legitimate online pharmacies present a number of risks. Some sell counterfeit medications with ineffective or even dangerous ingredients, such as rat poison or Fentanyl, which can cause more harm than good. They can also put you at risk for identity theft and fraud.

The dangers have increased recently as a number of illegal online pharmacies take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. These unreputable pharmacies sell COVID-19 “cures” and unapproved medications that have not been found to have any effect on the virus. These fake and unproven remedies not only have a negative effect on your wallet, they can also put your health in jeopardy. So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate online pharmacy and a scam site?

There are several warning signs to look for when you’re considering an online pharmacy. Take the time to learn the danger signs, and beware if the site you’re considering has any of the following:

  • No requirement for a valid prescription from your doctor in order to sell a prescription-only medication
  • No U.S. licensed pharmacist you can access for an in-person consultation
  • Steeply discounted prices on medications (If the price sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.)
  • Advertisements for “cures” for medical conditions (such as COVID-19) that, at the moment, have no known cure 
  • An address located outside of the United States, a site that says it can ship worldwide or a site with no address at all
  • An unsolicited email offering cheap prescriptions

While illegal pharmacies pose a serious threat to the health of those looking for affordable medications, you shouldn’t shy away from finding a legitimate online pharmacy. There are a number of ways you can verify that the site you’re considering is safe. Doing a little bit of extra research can help you avoid unnecessary risks. Among the most important requirements the pharmacy should have are:

  • A license to operate in the United States, and in the state where you live (This can be verified by checking for a Digital Pharmacy Accreditation, also known as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS), which certifies the pharmacy has met the quality standards set by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The logo will be displayed on the website.)
  • A requirement for a valid prescription before dispensing prescription-only medication
  • A U.S. licensed pharmacist available for consultation, whether by phone, chat or email
  • A physical address in the United States (It is illegal for pharmacies not located in the U.S. to sell medications here.)
  • Authorization to sell only FDA approved medications
  • A website ending in the correct domain (“.pharmacy” means the site has been verified by the NAPB)

Being able to take care of your health is important, and that means being able to afford your medications. Online pharmacies can make it easier and more cost-effective for you to do so. All it takes is finding the right one.

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