Online Pharmacies

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Harvard Medical School
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Online Pharmacies
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Online Pharmacies

Drug Resource Center
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At the Pharmacy
Online Pharmacies
Online Pharmacies
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Internet pharmacies are convenient, and the drugs they offer are less expensive, but they may not be safe.
350692
InteliHealth
2010-07-26
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InteliHealth/Harvard Medical Content
2013-07-30

Internet pharmacies are convenient, and the drugs they offer are less expensive, but they may not be safe.

Buying drugs from an online pharmacy is convenient and, in many cases, less expensive than buying drugs from a large chain pharmacy. So, what's the problem? Simply put, you don't know whom you are dealing with.

Here's why this is important:

  • Pharmacies in the United States must operate under a set of laws and regulations that are very similar across the entire country. These laws and regulations are to protect the public from counterfeit or fake drugs and to make sure that pharmacists are doing all of the things they are supposed to.
  • Pharmacists must make sure that the prescription drugs they are giving you are the right drugs at the right dose. They also need to ensure these drugs won't interact with any of the other drugs that you are taking.

Online pharmacies may or may not be playing by the same rules. It depends on where they are and whether they are "certified" or not. When you buy drugs from an online pharmacy, unless you do it wisely, you are putting both your money and your health at risk.

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How you can protect yourself

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from losing your money, or even worse, is to look for a VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) label on the Web site.

VIPPS logo

This label means that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has certified the online pharmacy. You can be certain that the online pharmacies displaying the label meet all of the laws and regulations that were designed to protect you, your money and your family. To learn more about this program or to locate a VIPPS pharmacy, go to the NABP Web site and select "VIPPS."

Remember, when buying drugs online, don't take any unnecessary risks. Specifically, avoid:

  • Online pharmacies that advertise prescription drugs without a prescription (for example, pain medications or drugs such as Viagra)
  • Any foreign pharmacy (including pharmacies in Mexico and Canada), unless there is a VIPPS label on the site

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Last updated October 01, 2013


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