Could Your Next Prescription Be Ordered Online? What to Know About Shopping for Medications on the Internet


| 3 min read

Online pharmacies may be convenient and cost-effective, but all are not created equal. Internet retailers offer people time-saving options for purchasing clothing and electronics, but they could also be an option for safely purchasing prescription drugs. Amazon, the internet retail giant, has made headlines recently because of its interest in entering the prescription drug market, potentially offering Americans another convenient alternative for managing their health care. For many, Amazon would offer a chance to get medications delivered to their doors at lower costs. The ability to fill your prescriptions online makes getting the medications you need easier. Unfortunately, using an online pharmacy could be dangerous, especially if you’re getting a prescription filled through an international online pharmacy—something more than 20 million Americans have done. Getting your prescription drugs from an unregulated online source could mean you get a drug that contains too little or too much of the medication you need, doesn’t meet safety standards, or is counterfeit. So how do you know you’re getting a prescription filled through a legitimate, U.S.-based online pharmacy? Use these guidelines to buy medications online safely:
  • Only use verified U.S.-based online pharmacies. The Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or VIPPS, accredits websites offering pharmacy services and ensures consumers can recognize safe and legitimate pharmacies among the growing number of illegal and foreign pharmacies online. It’s actually illegal to import personal medications into the United States—even if you have a prescription or they are coming from Canada or Mexico. This is because many imported medications have not been approved for use and sale by the Food and Drug Administration. As our federal agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health, the FDA ensures prescription drugs are safe and effective for use by Americans. Your corner drug store may offer online service. Many U.S. retail and mail order pharmacies have websites on which you can view and submit your prescription information, an added convenience these pharmacies offer.
  • Look for specific signs on the pharmacy’s website. Look for the VIPPS logo (right) as a seal of quality. VIPPS allows accredited pharmacies to use the .pharmacy domain in their web addresses. It’s similar to “.com” or “.net” but only used by pharmacy websites verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Visit the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy website to find out if your online pharmacy is a VIPPS-accredited pharmacy.
  • See how the website functions. A valid online pharmacy will require all customers to submit a prescription from a licensed doctor. It will also have a state-licensed pharmacist available to answer any questions you may have about your medications. Finally, it will be licensed by the board of pharmacy in the state where you reside and where the pharmacy operates physically.
  • Make sure the pharmacy is in your health plan’s network. Click here to find a pharmacy covered by your Blue Cross plan.
For more information on how to save time and money getting your prescriptions filled, visit these other blogs:
Photo Credit: Rachel Scott Yoga
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association