In the U.S., prescriptions cost 2.5 times more than in other countries. For some Americans, that means not being able to afford important and even life-saving medications.
This drives many to look for alternative ways to get prescriptions without having to drain their bank accounts. Recently, more online pharmacies are popping up, promising cheaper prescriptions sent to the U.S. from other countries.
But are international prescriptions actually allowed? And how can you spot legal prescriptions when searching online? Read on to find out.
How to Get Legal Prescriptions Online
Once upon a time, the phrase “online prescriptions” was synonymous with illegal prescription drugs found on the deep web. But today, it’s easier than ever to find legal prescriptions on the internet.
To receive prescriptions legally, you must have seen a doctor and received a prescription based on the doctor’s diagnosis. It is not legal to self-diagnose or be diagnosed by anyone other than a medical professional before receiving a prescription.
And without a proper prescription, ordering medication online is legally similar in severity to ordering illicit substances online.
You should also only order from online pharmacies that are U.S. accredited and registered, like onlinecanadianpharmacy.com.
Importing Prescriptions From Other Countries
While some online pharmacies may be completely legal and safe to use, things get a little dicey when turning to pharmacies in other countries. But for cash-strapped patients, countries outside the U.S., such as Canada, have some of the best deals on prescription medications.
According to drug import laws, the legality of international prescriptions is somewhat vague. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that “[i]n most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use.”
The exception is if the imported prescriptions are FDA approved. If you decide to order medications from Canada or other countries, they should offer the same formulas and brands already accepted in the U.S.
But sometimes, foreign pharmacies offer prescriptions that may be necessary to treat a serious condition, yet they aren’t available in the U.S. In these instances, it is generally permissible to import these medications. The FDA says that the prescription must:
- be better than the treatment offered in the U.S.
- not pose a severe health or safety risk
- be ordered in small quantities (not exceeding three months)
- only be ordered for personal use and can be verified by a doctor
In general, then, importing modified versions of medications already available in the U.S. is typically illegal, unless approved by the FDA. And many unapproved prescriptions shouldn’t be imported, unless they meet the criteria listed above.
To err on the side of caution, research a medication and its availability in the U.S. before ordering it from a pharmacy overseas. And check the most current drug import laws for any updates.
Red Flags When Ordering Prescriptions Online
If you’ve found a seemingly-legal prescription online, you may want to look for some common red flags before hitting the “add to cart” button.
If you find any of these signs, be wary. Not only might the “pharmacy” be illegal, but you may also order fake or even dangerous drugs that could make your condition worse. Here are some points to be cautious of:
Lacking Accreditation and Licenses
All pharmacies should be registered with proper licenses in order to distribute prescriptions.
While licenses and accreditation might be displayed and easily visible at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, you may not notice if the pharmacy is online. Look at the bottom of the pharmacy’s homepage or on an “about” page for a license number.
Not Run By Pharmacists
Just as you wouldn’t want the drug store cashier casually finding your prescription for you, you don’t want a random person providing medicine for you online.
Make sure you’re ordering from an actual online pharmacy run by pharmacists, and not just a shady web storefront.
Doesn’t Require a Prescription
It is illegal to order a prescription drug without a valid prescription. But if an online “pharmacy” is fake and offering counterfeit drugs, they likely don’t care.
Only order from online pharmacies that ask for a prescription.
They Try to Diagnose Your Condition for You
Just as online pharmacies are becoming more common, so are online doctors. However, the two should be clearly differentiated.
A pharmacy cannot diagnose an illness, and they shouldn’t accept self-diagnoses either. As a rule of thumb, you should always get diagnoses and prescription slips from a healthcare provider who is familiar with you and your condition.
No Information on Prescriptions
When you pick up a prescription from a traditional pharmacy, you may be warned of side effects or other issues related to the drug.
The same should apply with online pharmacies. Even if you don’t chat with anyone directly, the website should offer information about prescriptions. This often includes information on side effects and dosages.
Consider it a red flag if the pharmacy website provides little-to-no information.
Website Security Issues
An easy way to check if an online pharmacy is legitimate or not is to look for website security.
Take note of security certificates and the URL. If the website begins with “https,” not “http,” the site has a TLS/SSL security certificate, keeping you and your private information safe.
Online Prescriptions at a Fraction of the Cost
If the cost of prescriptions in your area is far too high for your budget, online pharmacies may be the solution. But before placing an order, make sure you’re only choosing legal prescriptions using the tips and information discussed here.
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