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Be Careful When Ordering Prescriptions Online

Man using laptop in the kitchen and holding a pill box in his hands

It seems like you can do just about anything online today, and that includes getting medical care. Along with virtual services like telemedicine, you can also order prescriptions online. But that doesn’t mean that all online pharmacies or the medications they dispense are safe. Before ordering prescriptions online, be sure you understand how to get your medications safely.

The Growing Problem of “Fake” Online Pharmacies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started BeSafeRx to help Americans understand the difference between safe and unsafe online pharmacies. We have seen many new unsafe options, which attract customers with promises of very low prices and no documentation or prescriptions required.

While these services make it easy to get prescription drugs, there are many factors that could impact your safety. It’s important for you to learn how to tell the difference between safe and unsafe online pharmacies.

The Differences Between Safe and Unsafe Online Pharmacies

Unsafe online pharmacies often fail to meet national or international pharmacy regulations and may not have licensure or certification. Here are some red flags to look for when ordering prescriptions online:

  • A prescription from your doctor isn’t required to get medication.
  • There isn’t a licensed pharmacist on staff to answer questions.
  • The prices are deeply discounted and seem too good to be true.
  • The pharmacy isn’t licensed in the United States and by your state board of pharmacy.

You should also be concerned about the quality of the medications from unsafe online pharmacies. It may not be the same as what you would receive from a legitimate pharmacy.

These pharmacies may sell illegal medications that have too much or too little of the active ingredient, have the wrong active ingredient, or contain other harmful ingredients. Taking medications like this can cause dangerous side effects or allergic reactions. In addition, the medications may not be stored properly or could be expired.

Unsafe online pharmacies may 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 the highest priority when a doctor prescribes a new medication. All prescribed medications have side effects, and some may not be safe to take with others. It’s also important to mention other things you take, even if they don’t require a prescription, such as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements.

Both your doctor and in-network pharmacist will look for these types of drug interactions before prescribing and dispensing your medication. You should never start taking a new medication without it being prescribed by a doctor who knows you.

This is why it’s important to build a relationship with your doctor through annual check-ups — not just when you’re sick. Your doctor can keep your health history up to date, understand your overall health, and ensure the medications you take are safe for you.

Convenient Options for Members to Fill Prescriptions

The safest way to take prescription medications is to only take medications prescribed by a doctor who knows you and to use doctors and pharmacies in the Independence Blue Cross provider network. Our credentialing process ensures that providers in our network have the licenses and qualifications to practice.

Most members who have prescription drug benefits through Independence Blue Cross have several convenient and affordable options for getting medications without going to the pharmacy. Log in at and select Pharmacy in the My Benefits section. You’ll see options across the bottom of the screen 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 for your medications. You can also call the Pharmacy Benefits number on the back of your member ID card if you have any questions about the cost of a prescription, how to order prescriptions online, or whether an online pharmacy is in our network.

Dr. Nuria Lopez-Pajares

Dr. Nuria Lopez-Pajares joined Independence Blue Cross in 2018 after practicing primary care and population health for 18 years. With a background in public health and preventive medicine, she is now a medical director involved in utilization management, case management, and quality improvement. What she loves about this job is the opportunity to put prevention into practice and educate.