A random sample of 10,000 online pharmacies taken in 2018 came back with staggering results. Around 97% of these pharmacies were operating illegally or did not meet regulated standards. Not only can these unregulated online pharmacies cause you legal trouble, but they can be hazardous to your health.
I know what you’re thinking. “Forget it, I’m sticking with my walk-in pharmacy.” But before you shun all online pharmacies, know that some of them are completely safe and legal, and they can save you money.
So how do you tell the difference between a legitimate online pharmacy and a dud?
We are going to give you 7 quick and easy ways that you can verify the legitimacy of your online pharmacy and make your online medicine purchase safely!
1. Rate the Quality of the Website
The high quality of an online pharmacy’s website can’t prove that it is a safe and verified place to buy medicine online. However, a low-quality website probably indicates that it isn’t.
If you get overloaded by pop-up ads the minute you open the website or find that each page is cluttered with advertisements that have nothing to do with pharmaceuticals, close the page and keep looking.
Websites can make money through the advertisements they force their viewers to look at. In fact, a lot of clickbait is designed to do exactly that. They lure you in with false promises and make a few cents off of your visit.
A legitimate online pharmacy doesn’t need to profit off of irrelevant ads. They’re in the business of selling legal drugs online and can stay in business by doing, well, actual business.
2. Look for Points of Contact
Alright, so you’ve found a website that isn’t trying to sell you a discounted trip to Norway and a novelty waffle iron along with your prescription. Now it’s time to make sure there are real, live people on the other end!
If you’re about to make an online medicine purchase and all you can find is an email address, step away from the virtual cart.
A real online pharmacy will have a physical location, even if the patient never has to visit it in person. Reputable online pharmacies will disclose that information on their website. You should also find a phone number that you can call if you want to talk to a pharmacist or customer care employee about your prescriptions.
While you’re at it, look for the credentials of the employees. Is there mention of an actual pharmacist? Perhaps a listing of their credentials?
If you don’t find any (or all) of these things, it’s best that you keep looking.
3. Make Sure You Need to Prove You Have a Prescription
This is a big one. Say it with me: “It is illegal to buy and sell prescription medication without a real prescription from a real doctor.”
A pharmacist in a drug store would never let you purchase a medication you weren’t prescribed. Nor would she prescribe you something, herself.
Filling out a bogus online questionnaire does not a diagnosis make. What I mean is, multiple-choice questions can not take the place of an appointment with and diagnosis from a real doctor. Don’t waste your time with websites offering fake prescriptions.
Even if you have the prescription, don’t purchase your medication from a website that doesn’t require you to prove that you have the prescription. If you’re buying prescription drugs online, wait for a notice from the pharmacy stating that they have received your prescription and have verified its authenticity.
That being said, online pharmacies do supply some over the counter medicine that doesn’t require a prescription at all. Even if that’s all you need, it’s in your best interest to do a little snooping and make sure that they would ask for a prescription if necessary. Otherwise, even your over the counter medicine may be a little funky.
4. Research the Generic Options
One of the major draws of buying medications online is that they are often cheaper than buying medications from a walk-in pharmacy. If you’re looking for a discount, chances are you’re in the market for generic versions of the brand-name medication.
When regulated and government-approved, generic drugs will have the same chemical make-up and produce the same effects as their name-brand counterparts. However, you should probably make sure that they are regulated.
You don’t need a degree in medicine to verify the authenticity of a medication. Doing a quick internet search of a generic drug name should give you the answers you need. If your search returns with some sketchy info from reliable sources, don’t make the purchase.
5. Be Careful With Your Personal Information
Making a safe online purchase from an e-pharmacy shouldn’t be that much different from any other website. If you were buying a pair of shoes online and the seller asked for your social security number, you wouldn’t give that out, right?
The same goes for online pharmacies. It may seem normal to give out loads of personal information to a medical professional. After all, your insurance company and primary care doctor probably has that kind of information on hand.
However, as long as an online pharmacy can verify your prescription, they should have all of the personal information from you that they need. You’ve proven who you are to your doctor. All you need to prove to a pharmacy is that your prescription is legitimate.
When it comes time to check out, an online pharmacy should only ask for your basic credit card information. This includes your card number, CVV number, shipping address, and billing address. They should not need your banking information, your driver’s license number, and the name of your first-grade teacher.
Never give out information that could allow an illegitimate online pharmacy to hack into your bank account or steal your identity.
6. Look for Certification
Everything else aside, this is arguably the most important precaution to take before making an online medicine purchase.
Because of the increase in illegal or shady online pharmacies, there has been a rise in associations dedicated to investigating and verifying the authenticity of online pharmacies. One of the most common certifications you will see is CIPA, which stands for the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.
Online pharmacies that have been certified will proudly display the seal of their certification on their webpage. If the seal isn’t anywhere to be found, that means one of two things.
Either that online pharmacy failed to pass the rigorous regulation tests performed by these associations or they’ve managed to skate under the radar of these associations. Either way, that’s bad news.
Don’t bother to give an online pharmacy the benefit of the doubt if they’re uncertified. Even if they’re brand new and on their way to certification, there are tons of online pharmacies that have already been certified that you can choose from with confidence.
In fact, organizations like Maple Leaf Meds make it really easy to find reputable, certified online pharmacies. You don’t even have to search for pharmacies directly. You can just search for the medications you need and be taken to a safe, legal site that offers your meds!
Trust the experts. Look for certification!
7. Find the Best Price Before Making Your Online Medicine Purchase
As I’ve mentioned a few times, online pharmacies tend to offer medications at a discounted rate. For a lot of people, this makes their much-needed medication accessible. And honestly, even if you can afford the higher prices, why wouldn’t you want to save a couple of bucks?
Online pharmacies can offer medications at a lower rate in part because they simply have fewer expenses to pay off. Think about it: they can ship medication all over the country from just one or a handful of locations. This means that they’re saving money on space and staff.
Not all safe and reliable online pharmacies are created equal. In other words, some medications may be cheaper on certain websites. Why not shop around before you make your purchase?
But remember, don’t let a low price cloud your judgment. Illegal online pharmacies may have the best deals, but that is probably a reflection of the quality of their medication. Don’t risk taking fake or harmful medication because it seems like the best deal on the market.
Safety first, savings second!
Shop Smart for Safety
Hopefully, these tips on how to safely make your online medicine purchase have left you feeling confident and ready to navigate the world of online pharmacies!
Online pharmacies can solve a lot of problems for a lot of people. Whether you need to save some money or save yourself the trip to a walk-in pharmacy, we want to make sure that your medications are completely accessible to you. After all, getting a prescription can’t do you a whole lot of good if you can’t fill it!
If you found this article helpful, check out some of the other stuff we have on our health section. A little research can go a long way when you’re trying to stay healthy!