Buying Medicine Online? Be Careful

FDA campaign will help people to use online pharmacies safely

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Not all online pharmacies are created equal. Some are good at making themselves appear safe. It can be hard to know which online pharmacy is safe and which is not.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new campaign to help people make better choices when buying medications online. 

The program offers tips for buying online safely – like using only U.S. pharmacies, checking that the pharmacy is licensed and recognizing when a deal is too good to be true.

"Talk to your pharmacist about online options."

The new program is known as “BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy”. It is designed to raise awareness and help people know what to look for in a safe online pharmacy.

The FDA did a survey to find out how people are using online pharmacies and what types of pharmacies they were using.

They found that 23 percent of people say they have bought medications through online pharmacies. 

About one of every five of those people said they purchased from a pharmacy that was not connected to a local pharmacy or health insurance plan.

About one in five also bought medications from pharmacies outside the U.S.

Pharmacies outside the U.S. are not regulated by the FDA. Pharmacies that are not licensed in the U.S. may not be selling U.S. approved versions of your medication.

When drugs are not regulated, they may not be what you think they are. They may have too little or too much of the active ingredient. They may also have additional ingredients that are not approved in the U.S.

The FDA is spreading awareness to help you make sure your online pharmacy is safe.

The FDA says to look for these signs that your pharmacy is safe:

  • It needs a valid prescription from your healthcare provider.
  • It has all the proper licensing. So, the pharmacy is licensed in the state where you live, and the pharmacist is licensed to practice in your state.
  • It is in the U.S. and provides an actual address.

The FDA also gave some warning signals that your pharmacy may not be safe:

  • It is outside the U.S. and not licensed by any state agency.
  • You can buy medications without a valid prescription from your healthcare provider.
  • It offers prices that are too good to be true.
  • It sends spam email or paper mail to you without you asking for it.
  • It ships worldwide from a location outside the U.S.

Using technology can make life easier, but the FDA warns that everyone should take a good look at their online pharmacy to make sure it is safe.

The FDA notification about its new program was published on September 28 on the FDA website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 6, 2012