Across the world, the e-pharmacy market is booming and should reach $107.53 billion by 2025.
However, many patients buying medicine online have concerns about the quality of the prescriptions and whether the dosage is even accurate. While buying medication online is both convenient and affordable, it’s essential to stay safe.
In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to buy prescriptions online, including how to protect yourself.
Spotting Red Flags
Not all online pharmacies are legitimate, and many operate illegally. If it seems too good to be true, it often is.
Here is what to look out for when buying medication online:
- The pharmacy allows you to get medication without a valid prescription
- They offer much lower prices than their competitors
- Do not have a licensed pharmacist
- The pharmacy does not have a physical address
- Do not have clear policies or contact information
The FDA has several resources you can use, including a state board of pharmacy checker. Using these resources can help you to spot a fake online pharmacy.
The Dangers of Counterfeit Medicine
When buying medicine online, you must make sure that the medications you receive are the right dosage and have the right ingredients.
Some dangers of fake or contaminated medication include:
- Overdosing or underdosing
- Ingesting substances that can harm your health
- No active ingredient (or the wrong ingredients)
Fake medicine is a serious problem, especially if you take medication for a chronic disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Tips for Buying Medication Online
Now that you know what to avoid, what should you look for? Other than using the FDA resources mentioned above, you can do some research on the online pharmacy’s site itself.
Here’s what you should look for before providing your payment information.
Look for the VIPPS Seal
In the United States, pharmacists should be state-licensed. In Canada, pharmacists are regulated on a provincial level.
When checking out a US-based online pharmacy, make sure they have a VIPPS Seal (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). Sites with this seal meet state licensure requirements.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) also provides lists of accredited online pharmacies. These sites are safe to buy through since they meet criteria set forth by NABP concerning quality, privacy rights, and more.
Before you pull out your credit card, you should do your research on medication pricing.
For instance, imagine the medicine that you need is usually $200. Many digital pharmacies may sell it for $150 or even $99 or so, but if you spot one selling it for $10, that’s a major red flag.
Browse through a few different online pharmacies to get an idea of what you should expect price-wise.
Look for Unlikely Claims
Read the product descriptions before buying your medication. Does it make any outrageous or unlikely claims? Stay away from sites that have phrasing like “guaranteed cure” or “cure-all treatment.”
You should also avoid any sites that send you unwanted spam emails promoting specific drugs.
Only Buy FDA-Approved Medicine
If you buy your medication from an unregulated source, you can’t always guarantee the quality. The dose could be too high or too low, which could severely affect your health.
When medications are FDA-approved, that means they’re safe and efficient for their intended purpose.
When you buy drugs from another country, they may not be safe for you to use. You also must make sure you’re following the law regarding importation policies.
Ensure the Site Is Secure
If you’re going to input information such as your name, address, and credit card information, you want to make sure the website is entirely secure.
First, find the SSL certificate. When you look at the URL, does it start with “HTTPS”? If so, this means that the website has an SSL certificate, and it’s secure.
Sites that begin with “HTTP” are not secure. Any information you enter here may be easier for hackers and cybercriminals to access.
You may also see a lock symbol, and when you click on that, it should tell you if the connection is secure.
By sticking with secure sites, you know your data remains encrypted and safe.
Buying Prescriptions Outside Your Country
Is it safe to buy medication from other countries? This is a hotly debated topic since it’s sometimes harder to confirm the legitimacy of a digital pharmacy in another country. You also must make sure it’s legal to do so.
There are ways to stay safe when buying from an online pharmacy, including making sure that they require a prescription from your doctor. They should also have a physical address (brick and mortar store) that you can verify.
A legitimate digital pharmacy should ask for more information, such as your zip code. They may require your prescriber to fax the prescription for verification purposes.
Make sure to follow the tips we mentioned, and if you have questions, reach out to the pharmacy using the listed contact information.
If you can find them, check for reviews of the pharmacy. Read through other customers’ experiences to see if you can trust the pharmacy.
You should also ask your friends and family if they have any recommendations.
Reporting a Fake Pharmacy
Did you come across an online pharmacy that you don’t think is safe or legitimate? If you spot any illegal drugs, supplements, or other products, you can report it to the FDA.
If you’ve experienced a life-threatening reaction due to drugs from an online pharmacy, you should also report it to the FDA. Contact your doctor for help and medical advice and call 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency.
Stay Safe and Shop Smart
If in doubt, reach out for more help or contact the company for information.
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