onlinepharmacyWhat Steps Should You Take To Properly Buy Medications Online?

There are many factors to consider when looking for an online pharmacy that provides legitimate prescription medications. In fact, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) has reviewed more than 10,900 websites for patient safety and pharmacy practice standards and only about 4% of websites meet those standards. The warning signs of rogue online pharmacies range from a lack of contact information to a small selection of high-demand prescriptions available for sale. Let’s take a look at some ways to spot a rogue Internet pharmacy.

No Prescription? No Problem.

Rogue online pharmacies do not ask for prescriptions, which is the first sign that there is a problem. Prescription medications need to be prescribed by a doctor who has seen you in his or her office and knows your medical history, including the other medications that you may be taking and allergies. Many factors go into prescribing medication. If a website asks you to fill out a questionnaire to obtain medication, it is time to find a different website. This practice is illegal according to the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, and NABP, and the list goes on. You have to wonder who is at the other end of your computer. Would you let an unlicensed stranger on the street write a prescription for you or your loved ones?

Is the Pharmacist in?

Just like when you take a trip to a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, a licensed pharmacist should be on hand to answer any questions that you may have about your prescription. If a pharmacist is not available by phone or a secure web-based form of communication, find another website. Furthermore, if the website does not have a toll-free phone number and street address listed, you may be dealing with a potential scam artist. Email-only contact information is not appropriate for the types of purchases that affect your health.

Just Sign This . . .

Do you need to sign a waiver to make a purchase? You shouldn’t have to sign away your rights in order to take a medication that should be improving your health. Legitimate pharmacies do not require waivers. It is also important to note that pharmacies with a small selection of medications should raise red flags. Websites that sell only certain types of “lifestyle” drugs, such as Viagra® or Vicodin®, which people do not want to go to a doctor to obtain out of embarrassment or to feed an addiction are a good indicator that the site is rogue.

Can You Spot Fake Medication?

Buying medication from rogue websites is risky business. You could be buying counterfeit prescription medication with too much, too little, or no medication at all. Imagine thinking that you are treating an ailment, when you are actually creating a new one due to the potentially poisonous medication. Fake medications can look exactly like the real thing, but they could contain glue, drywall, chalk, or even rat poison.

What’s as Bad as Risking Your Health?

Your financial standing could be jeopardized. Rogue websites may not secure your personal or payment information, exposing you to identify theft. Auto-enroll, anyone? Expensive refill scams are another source of income from these types of websites; you may make a purchase thinking that it is a one-time deal and then check your credit card statement to see that you are being charged for medication on a monthly basis; the site could even do double duty as an identity thief.

Pharmacy: Find a Safe Online Pharmacy at a Glance

Given the issues surrounding the large number of rogue online pharmacies and the hazards that they cause to public health, NABP wanted to find a way to enhance patient safety online. NABP became the registry for .pharmacy, a new Top-Level Domain (TLD), like .com or .org, to provide consumers around the world with a means for easily identifying safe online pharmacies. As the official registry for .pharmacy, NABP will only grant the use of .pharmacy to legitimate website operators that adhere to pharmacy laws in the jurisdictions in which they are based and in which their patients and customers reside.

Soon you will have the reassurance of knowing that when you see a URL ending in .pharmacy, you are shopping at a safe online pharmacy. In addition to online pharmacies, websites providing pharmacy-related information will be eligible for the new .pharmacy TLD. NABP will thoroughly review these sites as well.

The first set of pharmacy URLs will go live starting March 17, 2015, so be on the lookout and remember the warning signs of rogue online pharmacies in the meantime.

Stay safe and educate your loved ones about this important issue! 

To learn more about the safe acquisition of prescription medication online, visit

Contributor Dr. Carmen Cartizone:

Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, is the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) and the secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee. He currently serves as a governor of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Board of Directors and chair of the PTCB Certification Council. He is a past president of the National Pharmacy Manpower Project and the National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations as well as a past member of the United States Pharmacopeia Board of Directors. He has also acted as a reviewer on several advisory boards and has provided expert witness testimony and consultation in the areas of pharmacy practice and regulation.