Buying prescription medicine online is illegal if:
- You don’t have a prescription for the medicine you purchase
- You fill out a questionnaire instead of getting physically examined by a doctor
To obtain a valid prescription, a doctor must physically examine the patient. Prescriptions written by “cyber doctors” that rely on online questionnaires to treat a patient’s condition are not legal.2
Be careful if you order medicine online. Here’s how:
- Are located in the U.S.
- Are licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website operates (Go to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to verify your site, or look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Seal)
- Have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions
- Require a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor/licensed prescriber
- Provide contact information, such as a 24-hour phone line, and someone to answer questions
- Send you drugs with unknown quality or origin
- Give you the wrong drug or another dangerous product for your illness
- Do not provide contact information
- Offer prices that are drastically lower than the competition – if the deal seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam
- Offer to sell you drugs without a prescription – that’s against the law
- Do not protect your personal information
- The “Aware Rx” website lists hundreds of “not recommended sites.” See if the online pharmacy you’re considering is on the list.
Want More Safe Tips?
Know your medicine4
- Check the physical appearance for color, texture, shape and packaging
- Check the smell and taste when you use for any surprises
- Tell your pharmacist or doctor if anything about your medicine is different
Remember that some drugs sold online are:
- Too old, too strong or too weak
- Not FDA-approved
- Not made using safe standards
- Unsafe to use with other medicines
- Incorrectly labeled, stored or shipped
- Only buy from state-licensed pharmacy websites located in the U.S.
- Don’t buy from sites that sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription
- Don’t buy from sites that offer to prescribe a drug for the first time if you fill out an online questionnaire.
- Check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to see if an online pharmacy has a valid pharmacy license and meets state quality standards
- Look for privacy and security policies that are easy to find and easy to understand
- Don’t give any personal information unless you know the site will keep it private
- Use legitimate websites that provide a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions
- Make sure that the website will not sell your personal information
- “Icann, regulators clash over illegal online drug sales,” by Jeff Elder, The Wall Street Journal, 10/27/14. http://online.wsj.com/articles/icann-regulators-clash-over-illegal-internet-drug-sales-1414463403
- “DEA Warning – Buying drugs online may be illegal and dangerous!” U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, accessed 11/13/14. http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/consumer_alert.htm
- “Families & Communities: A Resource Guide to Educate Parents and the Community on the Facts About prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse,” www.rxsafetymatters.org, http://www.rxsafetymatters.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/RXSM_FamCommun.pdfm, accessed 11/17/14.
- “The Possible Dangers of Buying Medicines over the Internet,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed 11/13/14. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048396.htm