The ABC’s of Prescription Drug Buying - Always Be Careful!

As a consumer, you have a lot of choice when it comes to obtaining prescription drugs. But all prescription drug users, especially seniors, should be aware of the dangers that exist out there.

prescription drugs

Not only are counterfeit drugs on the rise, you could be buying ineffective medications or even medicined that will cause you harm.

While there are many legitimate websites that offer good service and strong safeguards for purchasing medicines, there are also many “rogue websites” that don’t. Even if a website looks professional and legitimate, it might not be what it seems. The bottom line of prescription drug buying is that you should follow the ABC’s - Always Be Careful!

To offer some safety advice, we’ve assemble the following tips from reputable online sources. As a general rule, you can always consult the website of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, better known as the FDA, for up-to-date tips.

You can find the FDA’s website here.

  • Only buy from online sellers that require a prescription. It's against the law to sell prescription drugs to people who don’t have prescriptions for them. A reputable online drug seller will verify your prescription prior to filling your order.
  • If you don’t already have a prescription, don’t deal with a website that will provide a prescription based on an online questionnaire. A prescription should only be written after an in-person physical exam. Getting a prescription without a physical exam could result in you receiving a drug that is inappropriate or even dangerous. Your doctor will also have a record of any other drugs you are taking and can make sure any new drug you take will not dangerously interact with the drugs you are already taking.
  • Don’t buy from a site that advertises “miracle drugs” for a new cure for a serious disease. These drugs are not usually approved by the FDA and could be dangerous or not effective. Other danger signs include claims for a “new cure” for a serious disease, or use of impressive sounding terminology to disguise a lack of good science.
  • Make sure a licensed pharmacist is available to answer your questions. Whether you’re buying prescription drugs online, through the mail, by telephone, or in person, reputable sellers should have pharmacists available to answer questions.
  • Beware of online pharmacies that don’t list an address or toll-free phone number to contact in case of a problem. That’s a sign they may be deliberately attempting to make it harder to track them down.
  • Avoid websites that only sell a limited number of medications, especially “lifestyle” medications that treat obesity, impotence, herpes, pain and acne. Such websites often are designed to attract consumers who have privacy concerns and wish to avoid an in-person doctor’s visit. Websites of this kind are more likely to sell prescription drugs without legitimate prescriptions.
  • When you buy medications online, make sure the seller is properly licensed. Check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards Pharmacy at or call 847-391-4406. These sources can tell you if the online seller is licensed. Some sites display a seal, such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s VIPPS seal, as proof that the site has met state and federal requirements. Dealing with pharmacies that display the VIPPS seal, or other similar certification seals, gives you more confidence that they and the products they sell are legitimate.

    See a list of VIPPS-accredited pharmacies.
  • If you suspect you have bought a counterfeit drug online, report it. Notify the online drug seller. You should also report your suspicions about counterfeit drugs bought online to the FDA. Use the online reporting form or call the FDA’s Medwatch program at 1-800-332-1088. In addition, ask your doctor for medical advice if you believe you have taken a counterfeit drug.

Signs of a trustworthy website

  • It is located in the United States.
  • It is licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
  • It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  • It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another health care professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
  • It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.
  • It has a seal from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™, also known as the VIPPS® Seal.


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