How to Buy Medicine Online

Shopping online is convenient and economical, but the potential for trouble is bigger when you buy pills and prescriptions off the Internet.

How to Buy Medicine Online© iStockphoto/ThinkstockShopping online is convenient and economical, but the potential for trouble is bigger when you buy pills on the Internet than when you click on a jacket at a shopping site.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has reviewed over 8,000 online-pharmacy websites — and concluded that only 4 percent appear to be complying with pharmacy laws and standards. Following a few simple rules can keep you safe.

“No prescription necessary”? No, thanks.
No matter how tempting it may be to order a drug like Viagra without an embarrassing conversation with a doctor, if an online seller doesn’t require a prescription, there’s a good chance the pills you receive (if you get them at all) will be counterfeit, improperly formulated, or expired. (Besides, that face-to-face with your doctor may uncover important clues to better treatment.)

Check the hit list.
The NABP publishes lists of “recommended” and “not recommended” online pharmacies at Or just look for the blue-and-red VIPPS seal on the pharmacy’s home page. It stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites and signifies compliance with NABP standards and state and federal laws.

Beware of those Canadians.
Although plenty of Canadian online pharmacies are legit, the FDA prohibits businesses in other countries from shipping prescription drugs to Americans, because it can’t ensure the safety and efficacy of those products. So despite how trustworthy our northern neighbors may seem, they’re selling to you illegally.

Compare prices.
Don’t assume you always get the best deal online. By the time you pay for shipping and handling or overnight delivery, your savings may not be that substantial. To compare a NABP-accredited online pharmacy to one around the corner, use the search engine at

Watch the weather forecast.
Drugs can lose potency in extreme conditions (which is why they shouldn’t be stored in your hot, steamy bathroom). In fact, researchers in Phoenix found that one asthma medication significantly degraded after as little as 30 minutes at 158 degrees — a temperature that’s commonly reached in sealed metal mailboxes and delivery trucks in that part of the country. See if your meds have temperature recommendations on their labels. If so, either ask your online supplier to ship accordingly or buy locally.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest