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Online and Mail-Order Pharmacies: How to Be Safe

4 Red Flags of a Rogue Pharmacy

  • No Prescription Required!
    Many rogue pharmacies are happy to bypass a doctor’s prescription in order to win your business. The problem is "there’s no monitoring of the underlying disease to see if the drug is working," says Sagall. Bottom line, selling prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal, dangerous, and the sign of a rogue pharmacy.
  • Location Unknown
    If you don’t know where a pharmacy operates, you don’t know what regulations it follows -- if any. "They’ve busted some of these operations and found unsanitary conditions and drugs stored in unmarked containers," says Sawaya. While the importance of clean conditions is obvious, clear, accurate labeling is another important aspect of pharmacy safety. "Everything has to have a lot number and an expiration date." 
  • Lowest Prices!
    Unregulated pharmacies can avoid the costs of watching out for your safety. In one instance, people who ordered drugs online for anxiety, depression, and insomnia received a strong antipsychotic instead. These people had no way of knowing what the pills actually contained, and several had side effects serious enough to require emergency treatment.
  • Viagra in Your Email!
    When purchasing drugs online, take a "don’t call me, I’ll call you," position. Chances are, the email clogging your inbox came from hackers trying to get access to your personal data. They may try to trick you into clicking on a link or downloading a document that unleashes malware that will invade your computer files.

Neighborhood Pharmacies Worth a Second Look

Purchasing drugs through mail order or online may save you money, but you will miss out on some things. "It can really help to go in and talk to your pharmacist," Sawaya tells WebMD. "You’ll have someone who can help you keep track of all your medicines and talk about things like side effects or drug interactions."

  • Faster
    If you get a new prescription and need it filled that day, you can walk into a pharmacy and get it taken care of. Generally you need to wait for at least three days for a drug to be delivered to your door.
  • Discounts
    These days, many retail pharmacies have responded to mail order offers with deals of their own. Some offer discount cards. Some offer $4/$10 plans, meaning they’ll fill 30-day generic prescriptions for $4 or 90-day generic prescriptions for $10.
  • Face Time
    According to Sagall, some pharmacists have patients; others have customers. If you have a good relationship with your pharmacist, let him know your concerns about drug costs. He may offer you a price break, and you’ll have the benefit of talking to a live human being in person.
Reviewed on February 15, 2012

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