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Buying Online Drugs Safely

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Topic Overview

Buying medicine over the Internet can make life a lot easier. Medicines on the Internet are sometimes cheaper. Your pills are delivered to your door.

Unfortunately, there are many dishonest online drugstores—and it can be hard to tell the honest ones from the dishonest ones. So you need to be very careful when you're buying medicines online.

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How can you safely buy drugs online?

You can safely buy medicine online if you use online pharmacies recommended by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. This organization verifies Internet drugstores throughout the United States and most Canadian provinces.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has created a website at www.awarerx.org. You can visit this site to find out which online drugstores are recommended and which aren't.

It's also safe to buy medicine through your health insurance company's website.

Don't trust an online drugstore if:1

  • The website doesn't ask you for a prescription.
  • The drugstore isn't a licensed pharmacy. In the U.S. and Canada, pharmacies are licensed by individual state or provincial governments.
  • The online drugstore doesn't have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  • The website isn't "secure." This means that any information you type in—your address, your credit card number—could be read and used by anyone who comes across it. Secure websites use special tools to "encrypt" your information. They turn it into a code that other people can't read. You can tell that a website is secure if the URL (the Web address) begins with "https" rather than just "http."

Why should you worry about online drugs?

You could end up buying pills that hurt rather than help.

A research project by the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines found that more than half the drugs bought online as part of the project were either fake or were too strong or too weak.2

Criminals who sell drugs online have one goal: to make money. So they often focus on medicines that are in demand. Examples include:2

Many fake drugs are expertly packaged. They look like the real thing, but they may have been made under very dirty conditions. And they may contain ingredients like chalk, sugar, and flour instead of the medicine you need. In the worst cases, a fake pill will contain drugs or chemicals that could harm you.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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