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People can submit their prescriptions to some pharmacies online. The pharmacy can then deliver the order or let the person know where they can pick it up nearby.

This article explores a range of safe online pharmacies, the pros and cons of buying medications online, and how to spot a fraudulent website.

A safe online pharmacy will have the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites seal. This means that the site is safe because it meets state licensure requirements, alongside other NABP criteria.

Roughly 35,000 online pharmacies are operating at any given time. However, fewer than 5% of those websites comply with the laws and standards of practice for American pharmacies.

The NABP has a safe site search tool. It helps a person check whether a site complies with NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards. According to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, fewer than 1 in 20 people know that they can check whether a site is safe to use.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that safe online pharmacies in the United States always:

  • require a prescription from a healthcare professional
  • have a physical address and telephone number in the U.S.
  • are licensed by a state board of pharmacy or state health authority
  • have a state-licensed pharmacist available to answer a person’s questions about their health or medication

Please note that the writer of this article has not used these services. All information is purely research-based.

Blink Health

Blink Health offers local pick-up at participating pharmacies, including Albertson’s, Safeway, and Walmart. It accepts insurance and provides free shipping and pharmacist consultations.

Mail My Prescriptions

Mail My Prescriptions offers a price-match guarantee and free 5-day shipping. They also mail medications in packaging designed to withstand up to 32 pounds of force during transit. However, the site does not accept insurance.

PillPack

Amazon Pharmacy owns PillPack, which works with doctors and insurance providers to manage and fill prescriptions. PillPack also offers expert pharmaceutical support, automatic refills, and free shipping.

Amazon Pharmacy

Available for Prime members for as little as $1 a month, Amazon Pharmacy says it has low prices and free 2-day delivery. The service accepts insurance and uses discreet packaging. Customers can opt to pay for their medication using their Prime account.

Health Warehouse

Health Warehouse provides generic alternatives to pricier medications. The pharmacy is accredited in all 50 states and offers expert help Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, the site does not accept insurance.

Walmart Pharmacy

Walmart Pharmacy offers free standard shipping, $4 prescriptions for wide range of medications, and transfer services for existing prescriptions. It accepts insurance.

Simple Meds

Simple Meds accepts most forms of insurance and works directly with doctors and insurance companies to dispense medications. It also offers pharmacist consultations.

Honeybee Health

Honeybee Health allows users to compare drug prices and transfer prescriptions. The company does not accept insurance. Honeybee ships orders in discreet packaging. Shipping is free, and orders usually arrive within 7–10 business days.

These upsides and downsides apply to pharmacies with approval from the NABP.

Below, find answers to common questions about online pharmacies:

What are the risks of buying from an unsafe online pharmacy?

According to the NABP and the FDA, these are some risks of using an unsafe online pharmacy:

  • The medication may fail to treat the health issue.
  • The medication delivered may contain very toxic ingredients, such as drywall or rat poison.
  • The medication may cause unexpected and dangerous side effects.
  • Some medications may not be not authorized for sale in the U.S.
  • Personal and financial information may be shared or stolen.
  • People may unknowingly download viruses and other malware.

What are the red flags of an unsafe pharmacy website?

The FDA and NABP warn people about the following red flags. An unsafe online pharmacy:

  • sells prescription medication without requiring a valid prescription
  • sells medicine that has not been approved or authorized for sale in the U.S.
  • offers medication at prices that seem too good to be true
  • is located outside of the U.S. or ships medication from outside of the U.S.
  • is not licensed by a state board of pharmacy or state health authority

Can I buy from other countries’ online pharmacies?

It is possible for people in the U.S. to buy medication online from other countries. But the FDA does not regulate these drugs and cannot guarantee that they are safe or effective.

It is also important to note that many fraudulent websites use fake storefronts to suggest that their medications are coming from a country with good safety standards.

Will my insurance cover the cost of medication from an online pharmacy?

This depends on the online pharmacy. Many NABP-accredited online pharmacies accept insurance co-payments. Some offer direct billing to insurance companies as an extra service. Others simply offer receipts for people to submit to their insurance provider for reimbursement.

Information about accepting insurance should be clearly stated on the pharmacy’s website.

Can online pharmacies ship medication quickly, in case of emergencies?

Some online pharmacies, including PillPack and Honeybee Health, offer urgent refills. However, there may be extra fees for shipping.

Safe, accredited online pharmacies can make ordering medications and refilling prescriptions quick and easy. However, it is important to verify that the pharmacy is safe to use.