What you need to know about online pharmacies

When I began working for Norton Healthcare, I started getting most of my prescriptions online through a company called RightSource. I know it’s reliable because it’s licensed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. It also works in partnership with my health insurer. I like it for a couple of reasons: (1) Prescriptions that I use on a regular basis are automatically renewed and paid for with a credit card on file, and (2) my prescriptions come right to the house.

But online pharmacies are not for everyone. I was shocked to read in Consumer Reports that less than 4 percent of online pharmacies it investigated were legitimate. That means 96 percent of the ones it researched are phonies! That’s scary! 

Consumer Reports says you may be getting outdated prescriptions or prescriptions that aren’t at all what they should be. Plus, if the pharmacy you use is not in the United States it is not held to the same standards as U.S. online pharmacies.

Another warning comes from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says buying prescription medicine from fraudulent online pharmacies can be dangerous, even deadly. In addition, these bogus online drug stores may use your personal information for reasons other than supplying substandard products. 

So how do you know if you are using a reliable online prescription source? The FDA website says a legitimate online pharmacy:

  • Requires a valid prescription
  • Provides a physical address in the United States
  • Is licensed by your state’s board of pharmacy and the state where the pharmacy is operating
  • Has a state-licensed pharmacist to answer your question 

For some people, using an online pharmacy may not be suitable even if it seems more convenient or offers cheaper prescription drugs. For example, if someone takes a lot of prescription medications there’s a greater chance of a drug interaction. 

Elizabeth Maloy, a pharmacist at Norton Audubon Hospital, encourages patients to use the same pharmacy for all their medication needs. She says, “Going to the same pharmacy to get all of your prescription medication allows your pharmacist to check for any potential drug interactions.” She also notes that when patients routinely use the same pharmacy, they are able to establish a relationship with a pharmacist, who is a valuable resource for medication information.

Consumer Reports found that many local pharmacies near you may meet an online competitor’s price if you ask and can even deliver the prescription if that’s a priority.

For more information on online pharmacies and how to tell if they’re legitimate, go to:
http://www.nabp.net/programs/consumer-protection/buying-medicine-online