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Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Online Pharmacies: Making Wise Choices About Buying Prescriptions Online Print E-mail

Prescription refills as close as your computer sounds so appealing. Online pharmacies are convenient, and some people may feel more comfortable sharing sensitive health information over the Internet rather than in person. However, this convenience comes at a price: It's harder to tell whom you're dealing with on the other end. While some online pharmacies are perfectly fine, others are substandard or worse. The following tips can help you make wise choices about buying your prescription medicines online.

Rx for Safety

  • Get a prescription from your doctor. Some sites offer to let you simply fill out a form, then have someone on their end who has never met you write a prescription. The legality of this practice varies from state to state. The American Medical Association and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are just two of the groups issuing warnings to consumers about this risky practice. Of course, you should also steer clear of any site offering to provide a prescription medication without any prescription at all. This practice is illegal as well as dangerous.
  • Buy only from legitimate pharmacies. A well-run online pharmacy will require that you have a prescription from your doctor or another authorized healthcare provider. They will verify that fact before dispensing your medication. Look for a written verification policy posted on the site.
  • Check for the VIPPS seal. This seal, sponsored by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), certifies that an online pharmacy meets the licensing and inspection requirements both in the state where it's located and in any state where it dispenses medications. To be VIPPS-certified, a pharmacy must comply with other quality standards set by the NABP as well. You can search for a certified pharmacy at
  • Make sure you have easy access to a pharmacist. You never know when you may need a fast answer to a medication question. Ideally, an online pharmacy site should provide a toll-free, 24-hour hotline you can call.
  • Safeguard your privacy. Actually read the site's privacy and security policies. If such policies aren't posted, or if they're written in impossible-to-understand legal jargon, take your business elsewhere.
  • Evaluate the written information for consumers. Is it clear and understandable? The quality of online information and instructions varies widely from site to site, so make sure you get all the facts you need.
  • Be careful about using multiple pharmacies. Even if you buy your regular medications from an online pharmacy, you're still likely to use your corner drugstore when an unexpected illness comes up. It's very important that both pharmacists know about all the medications you're taking. Otherwise, they may not catch any potentially harmful interactions between the drugs

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