Ensuring That an International Online Pharmacy is Legitimate and Safe – a Pharmacist’s Advice

By Shivam Patel, PharmD, Director of the PharmacyChecker Verification Program

It’s now commonplace to either be outraged or hear of a friend who is outraged by drug prices at local pharmacies. The national struggle to afford prescription drugs inspires an onslaught of questions: Why do these prices fluctuate so much? Why is the price of Lipitor at Walgreens a fraction of the cost of the one you bought at Walmart when they’re just across the street? And what’s the deal with these online pharmacies from Canada and India peddling prices that are as much as 98% cheaper than what you’d get in Florida? Is it the online pharmacies that are scamming you or is it the U.S. healthcare system?

Thirty pills of Januvia, which treats type 2 diabetes, sell for about $573 at one U.S. pharmacy but $477 at another. At a Canadian online pharmacy, the same amount of Januvia can cost $128.98. That’s over a 70% discount off the U.S. pharmacy price no matter how you slice it for the exact same medication.

I have seen firsthand the impact on patients from rising medication costs. During my time as a community pharmacist in Massachusetts, I saw too many patients break their budgets to continue their drug therapies. A heartbreaking majority left the pharmacy counter without filling their prescription due to cost. This doesn’t have to be the case. International online pharmacies sell prescription medication for an affordable price, and Americans struggling to pay for their meds here can access these medications through mail-order delivery.

Here’s the deal: there are many websites out there that pretend to be legitimate pharmacies, and they are just trying to shake folks down. These “rogue” online pharmacies sell medications without requiring a prescription or they’re counterfeit drugs or they will just take your money and not send you any medication at all. At best, the drug you ordered will be shipped but not likely handled by pharmacy professionals such as a licensed pharmacist. This information about rogue pharmacies will help you understand why you need to avoid them. 

The number one way to avoid dangerous websites is by only shopping at websites that are certified through the PharmacyChecker Verification Program or other reputable credentialing organizations. A legitimate Canadian or international online pharmacy will always require a valid prescription and your order will be dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. Through the PharmacyChecker program, we only accredit pharmacies that adhere to high standards of online pharmacy practice. And yes, these pharmacies sell quality medication for sometimes as much as 90% off the U.S. price.

We also have developed a verification portal where consumers can verify the URL of online pharmacies to see if they meet those high standards of pharmacy practice.

The main reason that the international drug price discrepancies are so out of control is due to lack of regulation of pharmaceutical list prices in the U.S., but that’s a topic for another day. Through the PharmacyChecker Verification process, qualifications and credentials are re-checked on an ongoing basis to ensure certified online pharmacies continue to be compliant. We believe that this protects consumer safety for those choosing to buy more affordable medication from Canadian online pharmacies and pharmacies located in other countries.

Millions of Americans have ordered medication from Canada, even though it’s technically prohibited under most circumstances. That’s because it’s legal in Canada for licensed pharmacies, meeting the laws of their provinces, to dispense prescription drugs to Americans. Please know that many Canadian online pharmacies fill your orders with pharmacies outside of Canada. For those that are in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, the partner pharmacies (not just the ones in Canada) are also accredited and routinely checked for compliance by PharmacyChecker.

Millions of people and their providers have put their trust in PharmacyChecker since we launched our website in 2003 to help consumers find qualified online pharmacies in the U.S., Canada and other countries. We’ve been cited and recommended by many reputable media channels including AARP, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and The Wall Street Journal. PharmacyChecker is recommended by Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, editor of Kaiser Health News, in her book American Sickness. PharmacyChecker.com is also a valuable resource for finding the lowest drug prices available online.

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