Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR

Hundreds of Web sites offer prescription drugs for sale, and the number of online pharmacies is growing daily. While legitimate pharmacy sites can provide a private, practical, and sometimes cheaper way to obtain prescription medications - particularly for those who live in remote areas or are unable to travel to pharmacies - online buyers must take extra precautions to ensure that they are receiving safe medications from a reputable provider.

First and foremost, before you purchase medications from an online pharmacy, check to be sure that you are dealing with a U.S. state-licensed pharmacy. A list of licensed online pharmacies has been developed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP). The NABP has also developed a program to help individuals identify online pharmacies that comply with all state and federal regulations for dispensing of medications. You can recognize these reputable pharmacy Web sites, all of which display the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ seal (VIPPS® Seal). VIPPS® also has a section to check for Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ (Vet-VIPPS®) when buying prescription medication for your pets (http://www.nabp.net/indexroster.asp).

Safe online pharmacies should also:

  • require a prescription from your own U.S.-licensed physician;
  • have a pharmacist available to answer questions; and
  • provide contact information (including the phone number of a person you can talk to) in case you have problems or questions.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014