Online Pharmacies: Your Complete Guide

Finding the Best Online Pharmacies Means Trusting the Experts

The Internet has revolutionized the world of medicine, making healthcare easier and more accessible for people across the globe. Online pharmacies have exploded in recent years, selling everything from antibiotics to fungal creams and contraceptives. Understanding how these pharmacies work and how they can benefit you is key to making the most of what they have to offer.

Benefits and Risks of Online Pharmacies:

Online pharmacies are known for being a low-cost source of generic and brand name drugs. They also offer the convenience of home delivery, a benefit that can mean the difference between getting the right medicine and going without for some. There are, some cons to consider when deciding whether to use an online pharmacy. Weigh both carefully before making a decision.

Pros:

  • Lower prices — Because online pharmacies don’t have the overhead costs of brick and mortar stores, they are able to offer the same drugs at a fraction of the price. Savings of up to 90 percent are not unheard of, and online pharmacies can mean significant breaks for your budget. When it comes to generics, the savings may be even greater. Some people will only buy their generic drugs online and save hundreds of dollars a month in the process. For people that take recurring medications, online pharmacies can be a significant cost savings.
  • Privacy/Anonymity —Privacy is one of the main reasons that people buy their prescription drugs online. Whether you are taking a drug for a sensitive disease or disorder or simply don’t want your local pharmacist to know your health conditions, online pharmacies provide privacy you won’t find elsewhere. Many people use online pharmacies to purchase contraception, incontinence and feminine hygiene products from the privacy of their own homes. Whatever your reason, you can be assured that your information is always safe. Online pharmacies use secure 128-bit encryption to make sure that your personal data always stays safe while you are shopping online.
  • Convenience — Sometimes it is simply too difficult to get to the pharmacy to get your prescription filled. Perhaps you have a medical condition that prevents you from making the drive to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription. Maybe you have a busy schedule and the pharmacy is always closed when you are off from work. Perhaps you enjoy getting electronic reminders when it is time to refill your prescription. There are many reasons that people find online pharmacies more convenient than their in-store counterparts. When you need your medication and other supplies delivered right to your home or office, an online pharmacy can provide that service.

Cons:

Just as there are many reputable and well-regulated pharmacies online, there are scam artists in the marketplace who only wish to part you with your hard earned money. Some fly by night pharmacies don’t work with licensed pharmacies. Instead they buy drugs on the black market and sell them online. Because they are not regulated, they do not follow safe dispensing practices and there is virtually no oversight. Purchasing drugs from these unlicensed pharmacies may mean that you are buying counterfeit, contaminated or substandard drugs. Some unscrupulous companies may dilute the drugs in order to increase company profits, rendering them ineffective.

People who buy from these unlicensed pharmacies often find they have little to no recourse when they are taken for a scam. Many of these pharmacies operate overseas, out of the jurisdiction of law enforcement in the local area.

Things to Look Out for When Considering an Online Pharmacy

  • Beware of any online pharmacy that will provide you with medication without a prescription from your doctor. There should be several steps in the buying process that require you to provide information that will allow the pharmacy to validate your identity and prescription. If they do not take these steps, avoid them.
  • Some sites exist simply to capture your personal information and sell it to third parties. Personal information is big business online. Beware of sites that don’t list a privacy policy that states that they will not sell your information to third parties. Every site you visit should be encrypted to ensure that your financial information stays safe. Look for the letters “https” in front of the Web address to make sure the connection is secured.
  • Rogue online pharmacies often don’t publish their contact information online. This is because they have none. These websites are the most likely to send you counterfeit drugs or simply take your money and send nothing in return. Look for, at minimum, a phone number, email address and mailing address for any online pharmacy that you use.

Types of Online Pharmacies

There are three different types of online pharmacies that are based on their prescription requirements. It is important to choose the one that will help you stay safe while still finding the best prices.

  1. Traditional Pharmacy — Your prescription is based on an examination by your personal doctor.
  2. Remote Consultation — Your prescription is based online or through a phone consultation.
  3. Rogue Online Pharmacies — A prescription is not required to order your medication.

Traditional Online Pharmacies

With a traditional online pharmacy, the process is similar to a brick and mortar pharmacy. You see your physician for an exam and he writes you a prescription. You would then upload that prescription to your online pharmacy, where they would fill it and ship it to you. This pharmacy acts in a similar fashion as your regular pharmacist and are regulated by the regulatory board in their state.

These pharmacies may include online counterparts to national chains, online pharmacies and supermarket chains. Most of these traditional online pharmacies offer other pharmacy products at discounted prices. You can get baby supplies, diabetic testing supplies, shampoos, contraception and more at these pharmacies.

Remote Consultation Online Pharmacies

Remote consultation is one of the newest innovations in medicine. Remote consultation pharmacies provide physicians that will write you a prescription after having a consultation with you by video chat or by phone. The patient self-reports his medical history which the doctor is able to review. He then will determine whether you need a prescription, which the pharmacy will fill electronically.

Remote consultation online pharmacies may seem convenient, but they are not often the safest for their clients. Because your online physician is depending on you to self report your medical history, there may be missed information that will not allow him to make the right prescription decision. Most of the drugs that these physicians prescribe are lifestyle drugs like those for weight loss or cosmetic problems. Since these drugs require little monitoring and are less likely to cause harmful drug interactions, they are easier to dispense.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that these remote pharmacy consultations are not recommended since there is no prior doctor-patient relationship established. Despite this, there are several health insurance plans that offer what is referred to as “telemedicine” plans, which allow for remote exams and prescription delivery.

The jury is still out as to whether remote online pharmacies are useful and should remain legal. Two states—Hawaii and Utah—have passed legislation allowing the use of these pharmacies, with the stipulation that the health exam be performed in real time—such as through phone or interactive video chat. Federal law prohibits the use of remote consultations when it comes to controlled substances.

No-Prescription Needed “Rogue” Pharmacies

These online pharmacies will allow you to obtain medication without a doctor’s prescription. Experts recommend avoiding these pharmacies at all costs. These websites are often run by unscrupulous people who will simply take your money without dispensing any products. They will steal your sensitive financial information such as your credit card number, address and birth date. Some “no prescription needed” online pharmacies are simply fronts for businesses that sell your identity. Ordering from these sites is risky and can easily make you a victim of identity theft.

Not only do these pharmacies expose you to identity thieves, they may also provide you with harmful drugs that have been adulterated, diluted or otherwise contaminated. Since there is no regulatory oversight, there will be little to no recourse if you get sick from one of the prescriptions you receive from one of these “rogue” online pharmacies.

More on Rogue Online Pharmacies

Rogue online pharmacies pop up every day, operating from within the anonymity of the Internet. These pharmacies may be operating right down the street or on the other side of the globe. If you buy prescriptions from one of these pharmacies, you could be taking medication that is adulterated, contaminated, unregulated or diluted. Many people have become sick or died from buying medication from one of these pharmacies.

There are several ways to spot a rogue pharmacy. First, they rarely ask you for a prescription as a condition of filling your medication wishes. They are more than willing to take your money and give you a fake, or no product in return.

Some rogue pharmacies require you to pay an additional fee for a consultation with a “physician” as a condition of buying from them. While there are reputable pharmacies that offer remote consultations, these pharmacies offer consultations that do nothing but put forth the image of medical safety. Many of these “doctors” have no real medical credentials.

Rogue online pharmacies are often easy to spot. Common characteristics include:

  • Not requiring a prescription for the sale of medication
  • Sites that are poorly designed with unprofessional fonts, misspelled words and awkward wording
  • Sites that don’t offer basic contact information like phone number, address and email address
  • No listing of any validation of any regulatory agency
  • No privacy policy or promise not to sell your personal information

It is not enough to simply avoid rogue online pharmacies. Many elderly are taken in by the advertised low prices of these sites. It is essential to ensure that elderly relatives are not patronizing these sites and potentially exposing themselves to contaminated drugs and identity theft.

The ePharmacies.com multi-point screening process all but ensures that you won’t be taken in by one of these scam artists and that you will only deal with reputable pharmacies for all of your medication needs.

Buying Controlled Substances Online: Only Purchase From Licensed U.S. Pharmacies

Controlled substances are those that have are highly likely to cause dependence and encourage abuse. These substances are classified by level, and are tightly controlled and regulated through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Schedule II Controlled Substances

Drugs in this category have the highest potential for addiction and abuse. Few reputable pharmacies will dispense these medications without approval from the physician. In some cases, pharmacies will contact the doctor directly to make sure the prescription is not forged. Schedule II substances include drugs like Percocet, Methadone and Oxycodone.

Schedule III Controlled Substances

These drugs have the potential to become addictive but are less addictive than Schedule II drugs. These drugs include Tylenol with Codeine, barbituates and Hydrocodone. These drugs have been known to lead to low or moderate dependence in healthy individuals.

Schedule IV and V Controlled Substances

Drugs in the IV and V category have the lowest potential for dependency. Drugs in this category include antidepressants, steroids and muscle relaxants. Certain cough and cold medicines also fall in this category as they have been known to create dependency in some individuals.

In most cases, you can buy controlled substances in pharmacies with no restrictions. Beware, however, or remote exam online pharmacies that will dispense Schedule II controlled substances without a doctor’s physical visit. Pharmacies that will dispense controlled substances without a prescription are often scams and can cause draw the attention of the DEA. Avoid pharmacies that promise to fill any drugs without a prescription.

ePharmacies.com Safety Standards

The staff at ePharmacies.com is dedicated to helping you find safe and licensed pharmacies online. We operate the ePharmacies.com verification program that ensures that only companies that meet our exacting standards are displayed in an effort to help you find the best pharmacy possible. We vet thousands of online pharmacies, separating the reputable from the scams so that you don’t have to. Only pharmacies that follow industry best practices are eligible to be listed on our site, and we monitor it regularly to make sure that all of our pharmacies remain in compliance.

We Ensure Your Privacy is Protected

  • We make sure each site has a privacy policy that affirms that the consumer’s sensitive data will not be sold, shared or rented to third parties
  • We make sure all sites that collect sensitive information are secured with the right amount of data encryption to make sure they cannot be accessed by unauthorized users
  • We make sure that each pharmacy site has verifiable mailing address, phone number and email address published conspicuously on the site

United States Pharmaceutical Regulations

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services are responsible for the regulation of all food and medication sold in the United States. The FDA is responsible for releasing new drug reviews, conducting surveillance and issuing drug recalls in the United States. The FDA has no jurisdiction outside of the United States, and cannot offer assistance for consumers who purchase drugs from international retailers.

Every pharmacy and pharmacist is licensed and regulated by the regulatory bodies in their individual state. These regulations can differ from state to state, but each state has similar requirements that outline safe dispensing practices, compliance and storage standards. Each of these regulatory bodies determines which pharmacies are allowed to operate in the state.

Controlled substances are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and each pharmacy must maintain in good standing to keep their authority to sell these drugs.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) started the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) program in 1999 in response to public concerns about websites that were purported to be selling drugs that violated federal and state laws. As of this writing, there are 33 online pharmacies that are certified by VIPPS, the majority of which are national chains that operate brick and mortar stores. International pharmacies are not allowed to join the VIPPS program.

Buying Locally Versus Using International Retailers

While there is much talk of the cost savings of buying from international pharmacies, there are many reasons to support United States based retailers for all of your pharmacy needs. Benefits of buying domestically include:

  • Lower prices on generics — There has been fierce competition between U.S. retailers to provide the lowest price generic drugs. Most of the larger chains offer low cost generic drugs that are less than what consumers would pay through their health insurer. Because of this competition, it is often cheaper to buy generic drugs domestically than it is to purchase from overseas retailers.
  • Health Insurance Acceptance — Most international pharmacies require you to purchase all of your drugs in cash. Most do not accept United States insurance payments. By buying locally, you can use your health insurance carrier of choice, avoiding high fees for your medications. If you are planning to submit a reimbursement for your medication, it may be harder to do so if you buy from an international pharmacy.
  • Fast, Cheaper Shipping — If you are buying overseas, you may be subject to additional shipping regulations that slow down the delivery of your medication. With United States based pharmacies, you can be assured that you will receive your medication quickly without having to pay additional international fees and tariffs.

More Consumer Protection

When you buy prescriptions from U.S. retailers, you are protected should your medication not meet quality standards. The FDA and DEA as well as local agencies regulate the sale of medication in the United States, and there are many agencies available to help you if your experience is less than ideal.

When you buy medication from overseas, you are at the mercy of their regulatory agencies, if there are any. The United States has no jurisdiction over overseas companies and will not be able to help you if your medication is adulterated or contaminated. In addition, they will not be able to assist you if an international pharmacy sells your personal information and causes you to become a victim of identity theft.

One of the biggest trends in pharmacies is buying drugs online from Canada. This is because the FDA often bans a drug if it has a history of harmful outcomes in the United States. Consumers who want to take the drug anyway often turn to our neighbors to the north to get the drugs that they need. In 2001 when the United States banned the sale of the drug Ephedrine, sales in Canadian pharmacies shot through the roof. Buying drugs for personal use from overseas pharmacies is called personal drug importation.

While this practice is technically illegal, the United States DEA typically allows a short supply (up to 90 days) for personal use, as long as you don’t attempt to sell these drugs to others. The key to using this to your advantage is to make sure you are dealing with reputable drug companies that will sell you safe medication.

In the video below, the director for the Health Care Team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Marcia Crosse, PhD, clearly explains the FDA’s personal drug importation policies:

If you buy medication online from an overseas country, it is important to make sure that the source is licensed and regulated by the governing body in the country of origin. Many people buy medications from Canadian pharmacies due to their less stringent laws, relative similarity to United States pharmaceutical standards and lower shipping costs. ePharmacies verifies the licensing of pharmacies in Canada to make sure they meet the standards for prescriptions sold online.

There was a time about a decade ago that the majority of people who bought medication from overseas pharmacies trusted Canada to supply their medication. Today consumers are turning to countries like Australia, Barbados, India, Israel, Italy, Mauritius, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom play a larger role in meeting this demand. ePharmacies often gets requests for membership in our program from pharmacies in these nations. Rest assured that they are required to meet the same exacting and stringent standards as American and Canadian pharmacies.

Counterfeit Medication and Online Pharmacies

The sale and distribution of counterfeit drugs is a major problem across the globe. Some drugs are highly valuable in the marketplace, and counterfeiters have a huge incentive to resell them for profit. In some cases, rogue online pharmacies take legitimate prescriptions and keep them to resell to unsuspecting consumers. Others simply create their own versions of profitable drugs, substituting the actual drugs for lower cost, ineffective and sometimes dangerous substitutes.

Studies have shown that the likelihood of being taken in by counterfeit drugs is greatly reduced when consumers only buy their medication from verified websites like those featured on ePharmacies.com.

Counterfeit drugs often include several elements that can be dangerous to the end consumer. Some contain too little or no active ingredients, while others are packaged in such a way to deceive the user as to the contents. The World Health Organization has taken a keen interest in the problem of counterfeit drugs, and has reported that nearly half of all drugs ordered from rogue websites are counterfeit. This is why online pharmacy website verification is so important. ePharmacies.com takes steps to verify every online pharmacy published on the site and ensure that no counterfeit drugs are being sold by any of its featured merchants.

Everyone Deserves Access to Low Cost Medication

Here at ePharmacies.com, we believe that everyone has the right to access to low cost, safe and effective mediation. We know that many Americans simply do without the medication they need due to their high cost. We believe that high drug prices represent a public health crisis in America, and it is our goal to eliminate this problem across the country. Because we believe so strongly in the right to low cost medication, we tirelessly search for the best sites to bring you the most affordable and safe drugs possible. We take pride in our screening process and we hope to make a difference in this crisis.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 10 million deaths could be prevented if people have access to the medications they need daily. By weeding out scam sites that provide only empty promises and fake medication, we are committed to helping save lives through access to affordable medication.

We are proud members of the RxRights.org coalition, an organization that advocates for safe drug access through verified websites. We are a non-partisan company that believes that medication should be a right, not a privilege.

When it comes to buying safe and affordable prescription drugs online, ePharmacies prides ourselves on our rigorous screening process and delivers only the best and most reliable sites for all of your medication needs. Let us help you get the medication you need today.