A recent survey found that over one-third of Americans have used an online pharmacy at least once to fill their prescriptions. The only problem?

Online pharmacies are a relatively new leg of the e-commerce network. For Americans who aren’t used to them, it can be easy to fall into the trap of buying unsafe prescriptions from fake or uncertified online pharmacies.

Fortunately, there are plenty of online pharmacies that make it perfectly safe to get prescriptions online. All you need is a sharp eye for detail and an understanding of what separates safe online pharmacies from scams.

Read on for five helpful tips that will teach you how to get a prescription online without worrying about your medical privacy, safety, or banking information.

  1. No Prescription Required? That’s a No-Go

Although the form may be different, an online pharmacy should operate the same way as a brick-and-mortar pharmacy in function. That means that in order to fill a prescription, an online pharmacy should require proof that you have received that prescription from a medical professional.

Oftentimes, online pharmacies will require either you or your doctor to fax them a copy of your prescription. Have you come across a pharmacy that does not ask you to show proof of your prescription in exchange for prescription medications? They are not operating an ethical business.

(Note that some online pharmacies will also sell over-the-counter drugs like mild painkillers or allergy medications. It is okay if these do not require a prescription as long as prescription medications do.)

  1. Look for Pharmaceutical Certification

Due to the influx of fake or dangerous online pharmacies, a number of certification boards have formed over the years. The objective of these certification boards is to ensure that online pharmacies are safe and operated by trained and licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Some of the more common online pharmacy certifications include:

  • CIPA Rx (Certified Canadian International Pharmacy)
  • IPABC (International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia)
  • Pharmacy Checker Verification Program

The seals for these certification boards should be displayed prominently on the website of your online pharmacy. The seals should be connected to activated links that take you to each board’s website with further proof that the pharmacy is certified.

A number of online pharmacies do have these certifications. Never take the risk of filling your prescriptions with a pharmacy that does not.

  1. Look for Savings That Make Sense

One of the biggest appeals of filling a prescription online is that you can save quite a bit of money. Why is this the case?

Online pharmacies are able to serve the needs of thousands of patients from a centralized location with a smaller staff. This saves them the upfront costs that brick-and-mortar pharmacies often have to factor into their pricing.

Plus, online pharmacies rely on the best-priced generic options. Generic medications are produced using the same formulas as name-brand medications. However, because they do not have to go through the long and costly research and testing process, they are able to charge a lot less for what is essentially the same medication.

What that means is that you can expect to see much lower prices in an online pharmacy than you might at your typical brick-and-mortar pharmacy. That being said, if you see those low prices on supposedly name-brand medications, this may be a sign that an online pharmacy is selling counterfeit drugs–which you should assume are unsafe.

  1. Make Sure Someone Is There to Answer Your Questions

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians aren’t just there to fill your prescriptions. They’re also there to answer any questions you may have about the prescriptions you’re taking.

It’s natural to have questions about your dosage, potential side effects, and more. Opting to use an online pharmacy shouldn’t mean that you have to sacrifice getting the answers you need.

A quality online pharmacy will offer a variety of methods for you to contact a certified pharmacist. Make sure that you can call or email your questions and that a registered medical professional is available to answer them.

Note that it’s normal for an online pharmacy to have specific hours in which these kinds of questions can be answered. Some may offer a 24-hour hotline while others may have more standard hours of operation. As long as there are times when a medical professional can be reached, you’re in good hands.

  1. Look for Website Security

Finally, you want to make sure that all of your personal information is protected. If an online pharmacy is certified, that means that they are operating under standard medical privacy rules. However, because this information is being communicated online, you want to make sure the website is safe, too.

A good online pharmacy will display the seal of their cyber-security program. Oftentimes, this will appear alongside any certification seals or somewhere on the “About” page.

A common cyber-security program online pharmacies use is McAfee Secure. McAfee Secure encrypts the data you enter on the websites they protect, keeping that information safe from hackers. This ensures that your medical data is safe and that your banking information and home address are safe, too.

Get Prescriptions Online the Safe and Smart Way

Online pharmacies are growing in popularity with American patients. However, there is a darker side to the world of online medication. By following our five tips, you can get prescriptions online through pharmacies that are licensed and safe to use.

Healthcare isn’t always the easiest industry to navigate, whether you’re a healthcare provider or a patient. We have resources and updates that will help you understand what’s going on in the world of healthcare today. Take a look around for ways to boost patient engagement, take advantage of the latest healthcare technology, and more.