Online Pharmacy Scams: What to Look Out For

What You Should Know Before Buying Meds From An Online Pharmacy

With ever-increasing prices for health insurance and prescription drugs, we’re all looking for a way to a way to decrease our medical expenses. One avenue many people choose is buying their prescription medications through online pharmacies. Legitimate online pharmacies exist that offer an easy, convenient way to obtain your prescription medications without compromising your safety or privacy, but there are just as many fraudulent online retailers vying for your business that may not only jeopardize your identity and privacy but more importantly put your health and those you love at risk.

Characteristics of Fraudulent Online Pharmacies

If you choose to buy your medicines from online pharmacies, beware of the following practices, which should raise a red flag as to whether you’re dealing with a legitimate or fraudulent online pharmacy. Characteristics of a fraudulent online pharmacy include: 

  • Prominently display of the Canadian flag on their website in an attempt to lend credibility to their pharmacy but the “pharmacy” may actually be located halfway across the world with no ties to Canada
  • Provide prescription medicines without a valid written prescription from your doctor or other healthcare provider
  • Sell prescription drugs at a significantly reduced rate
  • Do not have a U. S. state-licensed pharmacist that can answer your questions
  • Floods your inbox with unsolicited emails selling cheap prescription medicines
  • Is located outside the United States and cannot provide a U. S. street address or phone number
  • Ships worldwide

Purchasing Prescription Medicines from an Online Pharmacy can put your Health at Risk

Online pharmacies may be able sell you medicine that is cheaper than what you can find at your local retail store or pharmacy, but the medicines they sell may actually be dangerous to your health. Any slight variation in ingredient or dosage could prove to be harmful, even deadly.

  • Medicines may not contain the correct active ingredient to treat your medical condition or illness, or may contain the correct active ingredient but at the wrong dosage which could be toxic or which renders the medicine ineffective
  • Medicines are most likely not be FDA-approved
  • Medicines may contain unknown and unlisted ingredients which could be harmful, toxic, have dangerous side effects, or cause an allergic reaction
  • Medicines may negatively interact with other medicines or supplements you are taking
  • You may receive counterfeit, contaminated, or expired medicines which put your health at risk

Characteristics of a Safe Online Pharmacy

If you choose to buy your medicines online, here is what you should look for in a legitimate online pharmacy:

  • Always requires a valid, written prescription from your doctor or other healthcare provider
  • Are licensed by a state board of pharmacy. Click on this link to learn whether the online pharmacy you choose is licensed in the United States:
  • Has a pharmacist licensed in the United States available to answer your questions
  • Is located in the United States and can provide both a U. S. street address and phone number

You should also check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) List of Not Recommended Websites to make sure the online pharmacy you choose is not on this list; however, just because a pharmacy is not listed here does not mean it is legitimate.

Also look for the VIPPS seal meaning the online pharmacy is safe and approved by the NABP Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites.

Identity and Privacy Risks

 Besides the potential health risks you expose yourself to when dealing with fraudulent online pharmacies, there are also possible identity and privacy risks. Fraudulent online pharmacies

  • Do not have safeguards in place to protect your personal, medical, and financial information
  • May sell your personal, medical, or financial information to 3rd parties which may use that information to steal your identity
  • May charge you for medicines you neither order nor receive

Report Any Adverse Reactions or Side Effects to the FDA

The FDA is responsible for approving and regulating medicines in the United States so if you are harmed by, or suffer an adverse reaction or side effect from an FDA-approved medicine, please notify the doctor who prescribed the medicine, and let the FDA know about your experience by filing an MedWatch Adverse Event Report at