Living with Chronic Pain

Safety Tips for Purchasing Prescription Medication Online for Americans


Purchasing prescription medication online may save time and money and is often beneficial for those living in remote areas or those who are unable to travel to a pharmacy. However, it is essential to ensure that the seller is legitimate, and the medications are safe. Medications from an illegal pharmacy may contain dangerous ingredients or even a different medication than ordered. In addition, the medication may have been improperly stored, incorrectly labeled, or even expired. Also, the dose may be too strong or too weak. This can increase the risk of adverse effects, overdose, or even death.

Here are some tips for identifying a safe online pharmacy and some warning signs of an illegitimate pharmacy.

Identifying a safe online pharmacy

An online pharmacy should always be licensed. A list of licensed online pharmacies from each state’s board of pharmacy’s license database is available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website. Legitimate licensed online pharmacies require the following:

  1. A prescription from a licensed physician should be required for all prescription medications.
  2. A licensed pharmacist should be available to answer any questions.
  3. The pharmacy’s website should provide contact information to address questions or concerns.
  4. The website should also have a physical address on its home page. The address should be in the United States. The physical location of the pharmacy should have a copy of the pharmacy license available.
  5. The website should list privacy and security settings and should note that they do not sell personal information without permission.

Illegitimate pharmacy warning signs

  1. Prescription medications do not require a prescription from a licensed physician. An online questionnaire may be the only requirement.
  2. Medications are sold at a fraction of the typical cost. While some savings can be found online, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. The pharmacy’s website does not provide contact information, access to a licensed pharmacist, or a physical address in the United States.
  4. The pharmacy is advertised through an unsolicited email, text, or post on social media.

If an individual suspects that an online pharmacy is operating illegally, it should be reported to the FDA at

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