Can You Buy Prescription Drugs Online?

Published March 26th, 2020 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

When you visit the doctor’s office for any illness, you are often prescribed medication that will help you feel better. These medications are recommended to you based on your symptoms, the cause of the symptoms, and they are intended to treat the condition for which you visited your doctor. Some medication are available over-the-counter (OTC) and do not require a prescription, while other medications strictly require a prescription before you can purchase them. For example, the doctor might recommend taking a painkiller/fever reducer, like Acetaminophen, that is available OTC. This does not require a prescription and can be picked up from a local drugstore and taken according to your doctor’s instructions. Alternatively, you may be prescribed a very strong painkiller, like oxycodone or tramadol that requires a prescription and cannot be purchased without taking your prescription with you to a pharmacy. Similarly, if you are suffering from a sinus infection that must be treated with antibiotics, this will require a prescription, while some decongestants are available OTC from any pharmacy or drugstore and can be purchased without a prescription. You may also have a combination of OTC and prescription drugs recommended to you for an illness. So, it is important to understand the difference between prescription drugs and drugs that are available over-the counter. 

Why do some drugs require prescriptions? 

Prescription medicines are meant to be used only by the person they have been prescribed for, and only used for the condition for which they have been prescribed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates prescription drugs through the New Drug Application (NDA) process, in which it makes sure that the drug is safe and effective for use in humans by reviewing data on how it is manufactured and how it behaves in the body. It also reviews data from clinical studies on the drugs to ensure that the benefits of taking the drug will outweigh the risks for its intended use. Prescription drugs cannot be purchased without having a valid prescription from a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. 

OTC drugs are also regulated by the FDA, but in a different way.  The FDA monitors OTC drugs through a Drug Monograph review that analyzes its ingredients, doses, formulations, and labeling to make sure that the drugs conform to a specific standard. These drugs are available off-the-shelf from drugstores and can be purchased without a prescription. However, it is still important to follow the instructions of taking OTC medication, and pay attention to its intended uses and maximum daily dosage. When using any OTC medication, it is also important to check whether any drug interactions can occur with other OTC medications that you are taking, or with prescription drugs that you may be taking. 

How to purchase prescription drugs online 

The convenience of online shopping is at its peak right now. Many Americans prefer to make their essential purchases from the comfort of their home. Shopping for household items like groceries online are now relatively common because it gives you the flexibility to research options for a specific product, read the labels, and compare prices to find the best deal for you. Not having to leave your home also means that you can save that time. For individuals living in rural areas, where making purchases for essential items like medication means driving long distances, purchasing prescription drugs online could be advantageous. People who regularly take a specific prescription medication for a chronic condition and need their medication refilled on a monthly basis can also opt to fill their prescriptions online and have them delivered to ensure that they never run out. 

How does it work and how safe is it? 

There are many safe pharmacy websites that offer prescription medication purchases online. The most crucial part of buying prescription drugs online is being able to differentiate between these safe pharmacy websites and fraudulent sites that claim to offer prescription drugs, often at highly discounted prices. Customers will be tempted to make their purchases on websites that offer cheap prescription drugs but can get scammed in the process. These rogue websites often sell counterfeit drugs that are not regulated, posing a huge health risk to the patient who unwittingly buys it. So, how can you choose the right pharmacy website and how will you know whether you are looking at a rogue website?

The FDA offers instructions and resources to help patients know whether they can trust a specific pharmacy website. The FDA operates a website where you can look up a particular pharmacy according to your state and check whether they have a legal license to operate in the United States. If you cannot find one for the pharmacy website you are looking at, chances are that the pharmacy is fraudulent and may be operated by unlicensed parties in another part of the world. According to the FDA, many of these fake pharmacy websites have a Canadian flag stamp, but are not actually located in Canada. Therefore, it is important to carefully check the website before you buy your prescription drugs from it. As per FDA guidelines, you can follow these steps to check whether the pharmacy website is safe:

Safe Pharmacy website have the following:

  1. Requires a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional like a doctor
  2. Licensed by a state board pharmacy
  3. Located within the United States (with a valid street address)
  4. Has a licensed U.S. pharmacist available to answer questions online 

Alternatively, you can identify a rogue pharmacy website by the following:

  1. Does not require a valid prescription from a licensed healthcare professional to purchase a drug
  2. Located outside the United States
  3. Does not have a U.S. licensed pharmacist to answer your questions
  4. Offers very cheap discounted prescription drugs at a rate that is not available anywhere else 

These fraudulent pharmaceutical companies may be selling counterfeit drugs that contain the wrong ingredients. This will not help your condition for which you are taking the drug, but additionally it could also potentially harm you. So always check to make sure that the website you are purchasing your prescription drug from is safe and legal. Doing a little background research about the pharmacy website before you make your purchase will go a long way. 

How to find the best price on a prescription drug with USA Rx

Since one of the ways people get scammed by fraudulent pharmacy websites is by being attracted to the seemingly low discount prices they offer on drugs, how will you know whether these prices are too good to be true? It is always smart to have an idea of how much the prescription drug costs by doing a price comparison yourself beforehand. Trusted websites like USA Rx offer a price comparison on almost all prescription drugs to help you do this. An additional advantage of using USA Rx is the drug coupons offered for prescription drugs that can be presented at your pharmacy when filling your prescription. This gives you a total discounted price with the maximum savings you can get for that drug. 

For example, if you are looking to purchase the popular drug levothyroxine, used to treat an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, USA Rx offers a price comparison on how much this drug will cost.  For levothyroxine, current prices with a coupon are currently valued at $12.00 from Walgreens Drug Store, $11.70 from CVS Pharmacy, or $8.07 from Walmart Stores Inc. This gives you a good discounted price range for this drug. If you then opt to look for this drug on a pharmacy website to purchase the drug online, and follow the steps recommended above to check whether the website is safe, you will have an idea of how much the drug should probably cost.  Any major differences between the price range you found from searching on USA Rx and on the pharmacy website, should warn you to check carefully whether the website is legitimate before making your purchase. 

Pharmacy Discount card from USA Rx 

In addition to the savings you can get from the drug discount coupons, pharmacy discount cards are also an option for saving on prescription drugs that you regularly purchase. A prescription discount card is especially beneficial for people without health insurance. An excellent pharmacy discount card is available through USA Rx to help you avail of these savings on all FDA-approved drugs. The card is accepted at more than 90% of pharmacies around the country and can also be applied when purchasing drugs from some online pharmacies. How does the discount card work? The way the card works to get you the maximum savings possible is through agreements that USA Rx has with drug manufacturers and distributors of major drugs. When you present your USA Rx pharmacy discount card to your local pharmacy when filling a prescription, the discount is automatically applied over the list price and you are charged a lower price for the drug than the market value. There is also no limit to the number of drugs you can save on with the card. So why not get started on saving on all your prescription drugs? Sign up for the free card today by simply entering your contact information online, print out the card, and apply it when buying your next prescription drug. Always remember to verify the safety of the online pharmacy you shop with before making a prescription drug purchase too. 

Published March 26th, 2020 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley

Was this article helpful?

Put drug prices & coupons in your pocket!

We'll text you a link to download our free Android or iPhone app