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10 Tips for Using an Online Pharmacy

Facts to Consider Before Buying Your Prescriptions Online

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Updated January 30, 2014

pharmacy Photo by Sean Locke (iStockphoto)

The U.S Pharmacopeia (USP), in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state Board of Pharmacy regulators, establishes quality control standards for all medications (including arthritis medications) dispensed by pharmacies throughout the United States. With the intention of preventing consumers from receiving poor quality and/or harmful medications from Internet pharmacies, the USP offers two important suggestions.

#1 - Determine whether the online pharmacy you are considering requires a valid prescription from your doctor before it will dispense medication.

The prescription serves as confirmation that you have consulted a physician or other healthcare provider, a physical assessment has occurred, and that the proper drug has been prescribed for the diagnosis. Merely filling out a questionnaire or furnishing only a credit card number is not sufficient for meeting required standards of medical practice.

#2 - Verify that the online pharmacy is a licensed pharmacy in your state or that it is licensed to deliver medications to residents of your state.

You should expect the same level of quality and service from an online pharmacy as from any local pharmacy. In 1904, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) was established for the purpose of assisting state licensing boards with the development, implementation, and enforcement of consistent standards for pharmacies. The NABP is comprised of these pharmacy boards.

VIPPS

In the spring of 1999, the NABP started a voluntary certification program known as the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites or VIPPS, in response to concerns over the safety of Internet pharmacies.

To be certified by VIPPS, online pharmacies must comply with the licensing and inspection requirements of their state and also each state to which they dispense medications, meet established pharmacy practice criteria, and must have undergone a site visit by a certification team. A VIPPS pharmacy site is recognizable by the VIPPS hyperlinked seal which is displayed on its website. By clicking on the seal you will be taken to the NABP VIPPS site where there exists verified information about the pharmacy. A search for a VIPPS Internet pharmacy can be done at the VIPPS site at http://www.nabp.net too.

More Tips

The FDA offers the following tips and warnings for online pharmacy customers:

  • Purchasing a medication from an illegal website puts you at risk for receiving a contaminated or counterfeit product, an incorrect dose, or no product at all.
  • Taking an inappropriate medication puts you at risk for drug interactions and serious health consequences.
  • Check with the NABP to see if an online pharmacy is in good standing.
  • Don't buy from online pharmacies which will sell to you without a proper prescription or which sells drugs which are not FDA approved.
  • Don't use online pharmacies which do not offer access to a registered pharmacist to answer your questions.
  • Don't purchase drugs from foreign websites.
  • Beware of websites offering quick cures or cure-alls, or that make outrageous claims.
  • Always consult your healthcare professional prior to taking a drug for the first time. Review the prescription with your doctor.

Sources:

VIPPS, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

Online Safety Guidelines Issued, ReutersHealth, 2/8/00

USP Offers Guidance to Consumers About Selecting Online Pharmacies, USP, 2/4/00

FDA: Buying Medical Products Online

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