You’ve heard that buying prescription drugs online can save you time and money, but it still makes you...nervous. When you pick up medicines from your local pharmacy, you know that your drugs are safe. But online? It’s hard to tell if a pharmacy is even licensed. You could be getting counterfeit drugs that contain too little or too much of the “active ingredient” - the stuff that makes the drug work. Even worse, the counterfeit drug could contain the wrong active ingredient altogether, or could contain harmful substances like rat poison or antifreeze. Your decision to purchase drugs from online pharmacies could result in identity theft or (much worse!) negative health consequences. And there are so many pharmacy websites out there – how do you separate the (illegitimate) chaff from the (legitimate) wheat?
Our honest answer? It’s not easy. LegitScript spends a lot of time investigating online pharmacies and verifying those pharmacies that comply with relevant laws. A lot of pharmacies “look legitimate” – but (unfortunately) are not. Our advice?
- Make Sure The Website Has Been Verified by LegitScript as a Legitimate Online Pharmacy.
Our team of analysts, pharmacists, and legal folks work hard every day to make the world of online pharmacies more transparent. We believe in every consumer’s right to order pharmaceuticals online safely. Since 2007, we’ve been building our database of health websites, separating the rogue operators from the legitimate, safe pharmacies. Are you located outside the US? Our database is now global! We currently verify pharmacies in China, France, the United Kingdom, and the US (with more countries coming soon!). As the only online pharmacy verification service approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, you can trust our database of LegitScript approved sites.
- If You Are Located in the US, Look for a VIPPS Seal from the NABP.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy offers online pharmacy verification. Those sites that the NABP verifies as legitimate may display a special VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal.
“OK,” you say, “I get it. You spend a lot of time looking at online pharmacies. What are some of the things you look for?” The following list is not comprehensive, but important factors include:
- Legitimate Online Pharmacies Always Require a Valid Prescription.
Many rogue pharmacies boast that they sell prescription drugs with “no prescription required.” To be considered legitimate, an online pharmacy must require a valid prescription for each order. If a website is selling prescription drugs without requiring a valid prescription (read: drug dealers), what other laws might they be ignoring?
- Legitimate Pharmacies Must Be Licensed Both Where They are Located and Where the Patient is Located.
With very few exceptions, pharmacies must be licensed both where they are located and where the patient is located. Most rogue Internet pharmacy websites are not licensed in any form or capacity, but simply sell drugs to anyone, anywhere. LegitScript verifies that all certified pharmacies in our database actually hold a pharmacy license for all states/countries they offer to ship prescription drugs to.
- Legitimate Pharmacies Do Not Sell Unapproved Drugs.
Legitimate online pharmacies will only sell you drugs that are authorized for sale in your country. Approved drugs come through a regulated supply chain – so you can feel confident that your prescription medication has been tested for safety and efficacy.
- Legitimate Pharmacies Have a Licensed Pharmacist Available to Answer Your Questions.
When picking up a prescription in person, you have the opportunity to discuss concerns with the on-site pharmacist. With knowledge of potential side effects and drug interactions, pharmacists have the expertise to spot problems and answer patient questions. Legitimate online pharmacies employ licensed pharmacists (not sales reps) who may be contacted by phone. If you can’t find a way to discuss concerns with an on-staff pharmacist, it’s probably not a legitimate site.
For more in-depth knowledge on this topic, check out our Pharmacy Certification Standards and our FAQ section on purchasing prescriptions online. We also offer additional consumer safety information and tools, including online resources on how to talk to your kids about prescription drug abuse. Finally, you can quickly evaluate a specific website by looking it up in our online pharmacy verification database.