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People can submit their prescriptions to some pharmacies online. The pharmacy can then deliver it or explain where to pick it up nearby.

This article explores a range of safe online pharmacies. It also looks at some pros and cons of buying medications online and how to spot a fraudulent website.

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

In the United States, a safe online pharmacy has the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites seal. This shows that the site is safe because it meets state licensure requirements, as well as other NABP criteria.

The NABP has a safe site search tool that can lead people to pharmacies that meet 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.

Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that safe online pharmacies in the U.S. 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 questions

How we choose products, services, and providers

Medical News Today chooses online pharmacies that meet the following criteria:

  • Privacy: The companies have robust, transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
  • Reputable: The businesses that adhere to industry best practices.
  • Insurance: When possible, MNT indicates whether the companies accept insurance.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online pharmacy services have increased in popularity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people with high risk order their prescriptions online to reduce contact with others. They also encourage pharmacy staff to promote this service to reduce contact between staff and customers.

Online pharmacies may also have proprietary measures in place to protect their customers and staff from COVID-19.

Many companies on the internet sell counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

The FDA reports that signs of an illegitimate pharmacy include:

  • no requirement of a valid prescription from a doctor
  • no access to a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist
  • spam email from the company
  • an offer of global shipping
  • a location outside of the U.S.

The section below explores 10 online pharmacies in further detail.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and was correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Blink Health offers local pick-up at participating pharmacies, including Albertsons, Safeway, and Walmart.

It accepts insurance and provides free shipping and pharmacist consultations.

Best for insurance options: PillPack

Amazon Pharmacy owns PillPack, which works with doctors and insurance providers to manage and fill prescriptions.

It also offers pharmaceutical support, automatic refills, and free shipping.

PillPack accepts most insurance policies.

Best for Amazon Prime members: Amazon Pharmacy

Available for Prime members for as little as $1 a month, this service claims to have low prices and offers free 2-day delivery.

It accepts insurance and uses discreet packaging.

Customers can opt to pay for their medication using their Prime account.

Best for over-the-counter medications: 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 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Eastern Standard Time. It does not charge for shipping.

However, the site does not accept insurance.

Best retailer pharmacy: Walmart Pharmacy

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

It accepts insurance.

Best for medication management: Simple Meds

Simple Meds accepts most forms of insurance and works directly with doctors and insurance companies to dispense medications.

The company also offers pharmacist consultations. It does not advertise the cost of shipping.

Best price comparison feature: Honeybee Health

Honeybee Health allows users to compare drug prices and transfer prescriptions. Shipping is free, packaging is discreet, and orders usually arrive within 7–10 business days.

The company does not accept insurance.

Best for adding household items: CVS Pharmacy

After signing in, a person fills in their prescription and the service notifies them via text when it is ready.

Delivery is free, and orders may be ready the same day or within 1–2 days.

The company accepts most insurance plans.

Best for telehealth appointments: GeniusRX

GeniusRX provides online appointments with a doctor, for a small cost, to help people get the right prescription.

Delivery is free, and orders arrive in 1–5 days.

The company does not accept insurance.

Best product range: Costco Pharmacy

A person can place their order from anywhere in the U.S. Delivery is free and can take 6–14 days, but a person can pay to have it expedited.

Costco Pharmacy accepts most insurance plans.

The information below refers to pharmacies with NABP approval.

Pros

  • convenient and quick
  • no need to leave the house
  • a wide range of options
  • possibly less expensive than an in-store service
  • discreet packaging
  • easy prescription refills

Cons

  • may be difficult to get answers about medication
  • may not fill all prescriptions
  • may be difficult to get temperature-controlled prescriptions by mail
  • may not accept insurance

Below, find answers to some common questions about online pharmacies:

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

According to the NABP and the FDA, some of these risks include:

  • The medication may fail to treat the health issue.
  • It may contain very toxic ingredients, such as drywall or rat poison.
  • It may have unexpected, dangerous effects.
  • The medications may not be 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 the U.S.
  • 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 from other countries online. But the FDA does not regulate these drugs and cannot guarantee that they are safe or effective.

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 copayments. 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.

The pharmacy’s website should clearly state whether it accepts insurance and provide detailed information.

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

Some online pharmacies, including PillPack and Honeybee Health, offer urgent refills. 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.