Buying Medicine Online

By Abigail Cuffey

medicine bottlemedicine bottleFraudulent websites selling counterfeit drugs are popping up daily as more Americans are buying their medications exclusively online. "Fake drugs can be ineffective and contain ingredients with dangerous side effects," says Margaret Hamburg, MD, commissioner of the FDA. To avoid a scam, make sure the pharmacy website you buy from has the following four features.

The VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal. This indicates that the website has been approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and meets state and federal rules. When you click on the seal, you should be taken to the NABP website. If you're not, it could be fraudulent.
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Contact information for the website and a pharmacist available to answer questions. You should be able to talk to the site's manager and ask a pharmacist about your medications-either on the phone or via online chat.

A doctor's prescription is required to place an order. Websites looking to make a quick sale don't take the extra step to ensure that your request is legitimate, so make sure the site asks you for prescription information.
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An easy-to-understand privacy and/or security policy. The online pharmacy should clearly state that it doesn't sell your personal information to marketers, companies or other sites. Look for these policies at the bottom of the site or in the "about" section.


Come across a website that seems shady? Alert the FDA so it can investigate: Go to and click "Reporting unlawful sales of medical products on the Internet."
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