Virtual healthcare has grown in popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More people are opting for telemedicine appointments than ever before, and prescriptions can now be ordered online at the click of a button.
But that doesn’t mean that all online pharmacies or the drugs they dispense are safe. Before ordering prescriptions online, make sure you understand how to get your medications safely.
The growing problem of “fake” online pharmacies
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started BeSafeRx to help Americans understand the difference between safe and unsafe online pharmacies. We’ve seen many new insecure options that attract customers with promises of very low prices and without the need for documentation or regulations.
While these services make it easy to get prescription drugs, there are many factors that can affect your safety. It is important that you learn how to tell the difference between safe and unsafe online pharmacies.
The differences between safe and unsafe online pharmacies
Unsafe online pharmacies often do not comply with national or international pharmacy regulations and may not be licensed or certified. Here are some red flags to watch out for when ordering prescriptions online:
• You do not need a prescription from your doctor to receive medication.
† There is no licensed pharmacist on site to answer questions.
† The prices have been greatly reduced and seem too good to be true.
† The pharmacy is not licensed in the United States and not by your state board of pharmacy.
You should also be concerned about the quality of the medicines from unsafe online pharmacies. It may not be the same as what you would receive from a legitimate pharmacy.
These pharmacies may sell illegal drugs that contain too much or too little of the active ingredient, contain the wrong active ingredient, or contain other harmful ingredients. The use of such drugs can cause dangerous side effects or allergic reactions. In addition, the medications may not have been properly stored or expired.
Insecure online pharmacies can also put your personal information at risk as they may not follow the same data security and privacy rules as a legitimate pharmacy.
Your doctor should always be informed
Safety is of the highest priority when a doctor prescribes a new drug. All prescription medications have side effects, and some may not be safe to take with others. It’s also important to list other things you’re taking, even if you don’t require a prescription, such as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements.
Both your doctor and your network pharmacist will look for these types of drug interactions before prescribing and dispensing your medication. Never start taking a new medication without it being prescribed by a doctor you know.
That’s why it’s important to build a relationship with your doctor through annual checkups — not just when you’re sick. Your doctor can keep your health history up to date, understand your overall health, and make sure the medications you take are safe for you.
Useful options for members to fill in recipes
The safest way to take prescription medications is to only take medications prescribed by a doctor you know and use doctors and pharmacies in the Independence Blue Cross provider network. Our authentication process ensures that providers in our network have the licenses and qualifications to practice.
Most members who have prescription drugs through Independence Blue Cross have several convenient and affordable options for getting medications without going to the pharmacy. Log in to ibx.com and select Pharmacy in the My benefits section. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see options for requesting mail order/home delivery, pricing a prescription, and finding a pharmacy.
Your pharmacist may be able to tell you about discounts that may be available on your medications. You can also call the Pharmacy Discount Number on the back of your membership card if you have any questions about the cost of a prescription, how to order prescriptions online, or if there is an online pharmacy in our network.
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About Dr. Nuria Lopez-Pajares
dr. Nuria Lopez-Pajares joined Independence Blue Cross in 2018 after practicing primary care and public health for 18 years. With a background in public health and preventive medicine, she is now involved as medical director in utilization management, case management and quality improvement. What she loves about this job is the opportunity to practice and train prevention.