Did you know that in the US, pharmacies filled almost 3.8 million prescriptions in 2019 alone? California, having filled nearly 334 million prescriptions, led the pack. Texas came second, with over 301 million prescriptions filled.
With such a high demand for prescription drugs, it’s no wonder that US healthcare costs rose to $3.8 trillion in 2019. Prescription drug spending accounted for 10% of those expenditures.
If you’ve grown tired of buying medicine at such high prices, you may be thinking of getting them online. You’re free to do so, as long as you make sure you get your medicines from a legitimate online pharmacy (LOP).
To that end, we created this guide discussing how to buy medicines safely online. Read on to discover what to look for to ensure you obtain drugs the safe and legal way.
Consult a Doctor First
In the US alone, there are over 10,000 prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
Prescription medications are those you can only acquire with a valid doctor’s prescription. Moreover, you can only buy them from a licensed pharmacy.
Some of the most common prescription drugs treat blood pressure and cholesterol. Many others are for coronary heart diseases, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and asthma.
Prescription drug restrictions exist as they can cause potential harm if misused. They are far more potent than OTC drugs, and their improper use can cause adverse side effects. Their active ingredients are also more likely to interact with other drugs.
By contrast, OTC drugs don’t need a prescription, but you can also buy them from pharmacies. They’re also available off-the-shelf in stores, including groceries and supermarkets. The top-selling OTC drugs help relieve respiratory woes, pain, and heartburn.
With that said, it’s vital to consult with your doctor first before buying medicine online. This way, your doctor can determine if you need to take prescription medications or if an OTC drug will do. If your condition warrants a stronger drug, that’s the only time you can get a prescription.
Verify the Online Pharmacy’s Licensure
According to researchers, there are about 30,000 to 35,000 online pharmacies in operation. However, many of these are illicit online pharmacies (IOPs). IOPs are in it for the money alone, disregarding the safety and welfare of the public.
With that said, one way to confirm the legitimacy of an online pharmacy is by verifying its license.
All pharmacies in North America must carry a license issued by a regulatory agency. An example is the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) in the United States. In Canada, it’s the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).
Those regulatory agencies issue licenses with a unique license number. In turn, legitimate online pharmacies publish their license credentials on their websites. Be sure to look for these details before buying medication from an online pharmacy.
Once you have the license information, you can run it by an online pharmacy license lookup tool. You can also contact regulatory agencies to verify the validity of the license.
Confirm the Online Pharmacy Has a Physical Address
Even if LOPs run online, it’s still a legal requirement for them to have a physical business address. They should publish this online, and it should include a building number and street name. They must also have reachable, working phone numbers.
Look for those details before buying medicines online, whether they’re prescription or OTC. Once you have the info, run the complete address on Google Maps or another web mapping tool. The most crucial thing is that the address actually exists and that the pharmacy is really there.
If the online drugstore only publishes a P.O. box address, don’t even consider buying your meds from them. This is often a sign of illicit online pharmacies.
Stay Away From Sites That Don’t Require Prescriptions
Legitimate online pharmacies will never issue prescription medications without a prescription. That’s because it’s illegal, and under the law, it can be punishable by imprisonment. That goes for both the consumer and the entity that sells the drugs illegally.
Illicit online pharmacies may not require a valid prescription. They may also claim that consumers can provide it at a later date. Both are illegal, so if you come across a site that tells you otherwise, stay away from it.
Instead, report that website to the regulatory agency in your country or state.
Check the Site’s Medication Supply Restrictions
Many countries, including the US and Canada, impose restrictions on prescription drug supplies. US states and Canadian provinces and territories also enforce specific restriction laws. These laws control the quantity of a specific medication you can buy in one go.
For example, drugs classified in the US as schedule III to V often have a 90-day supply limit. You can also get up to a 90-day supply for most other prescription drugs. By contrast, pharmacies can only dispense up to a 30-day supply for schedule II drugs.
Let’s say you have a prescription for the anticoagulant drug Xarelto. Since it’s not a scheduled drug, it’s legal to buy up to a 90-day supply of this anticoagulant drug. You can click for more details here if you want to learn more about this medication.
In any case, the most you can and should be able to buy from an online pharmacy is usually a 90-day supply. If the website you come across