• U.S.

How to Buy Prescriptions Online

2 minute read
Chris Taylor

So you’re sick of the expense and hassle of getting prescriptions filled in the physical world. Is the Internet better? It depends on where and how you shop

DON’T ORDER from non-U.S. websites. It might seem like a benefit to get hot prescription drugs like Propecia or Viagra with no questions asked, which most offshore sites offer–but neither the quality of the drugs nor their delivery time can be guaranteed. It’s also possible your package will be seized by Customs, and the offshore sites often require a massive “insurance” surcharge to cover this possibility. Your health plan is unlikely to cover items bought in Thailand or the British Channel Islands. And the cheaper drugs available from Canadian and Mexican pharmacies, while often advertised, are rarely sold online to U.S. citizens.

BE WARY of the dozen or so U.S. websites that offer $50-$100 consultations with faceless “virtual” doctors. By law, you don’t have to actually see a physician to get a prescription from him. But if the site isn’t asking enough questions about you and your family’s medical history, your prescription may end up doing you more harm than good.

DON’T EXPECT anything quicker than overnight delivery. If your malady can’t wait and you’re prepared to splash out $150 for the convenience of a physician who makes house calls, Expressdoctors.com is usually able to bring a doc to your door within the hour.

DO CONSULT with independent, unaffiliated online health websites first. Sites like WebMD.com and OnHealth.com dispense advice for free; dozens of others charge by the hour for a consultation or will even give an online therapy session.

DO LOOK for the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal of approval, issued by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. It requires that online pharmacies be licensed in every state they ship to. Drugstore.com and PlanetRx.com are among the sites now certified; 15 others are awaiting approval.

DO SHOP AROUND. Like everything else on the Internet, Rx prices vary wildly. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine warns of the dangers of getting fleeced; Viagra and Propecia prices, it found, are around 10% higher online than in a brick-and-mortar pharmacy. Note too that the average online “consultation” is $70, and the average shipping cost $18. Is it really worth the convenience?

–By Chris Taylor

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