Consumers always want to find the best price to purchase their goods and medications are no different. The drugs that treat our many illnesses and disease states can help us lead healthier and better lives, but they can also come at an enormous cost. We now live in a digital age, where many of our purchases that once took place in brick and mortar stores, now take place online. There has always been a sort of stigma regarding online pharmacies. Are their prices too good to be true? Are they safe? Will you get the same medication online as the medication that is at your CVS down the street? The big questions though are those concerned with the legality of it all. There are two legal questions that people always want answered. The first is if it is even legal to buy drugs online. The second is, if it is legal to buy drugs online, can I legally order them from another country? Say Canada for example? We will answer each of these questions separately.
Is It Legal To Buy Drugs Online?
Yes, it is legal to buy drugs online if the pharmacy is located in the United States and if that pharmacy is licensed with the state board of pharmacy in the state in which they reside. The best way to check if an online pharmacy is legitimate is to check out the NAPB website . The NABP contains a list of all the state boards of pharmacy and they will be able to let you know if the online pharmacy you are looking at is licensed. The NAPB website also has a list of all the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) you can browse through. If at some point you come across a website that is not licensed or you have determined is a scam, you can report it to the FDA here: Report Unlawful Sale Of Medical Products Online. It is important to remember that you ALWAYS need a valid prescription from a doctor licensed in the United States. Websites purporting to sell prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal and very commonly supply you with drugs that are different from their approved counterparts and may be unsafe. We can’t stress the importance of finding a trustworthy and licensed online pharmacy website. Finding one can ensure both convenience and cost savings, while using an unlawful website can put your private personal and financial information at risk as well as putting your health at risk with dangerous and unapproved drugs. So, what are good ways to find out if an online pharmacy is OK to use? In addition to checking out their license information through their state board of pharmacy, be sure to identify these 3 things: They must require a valid prescription, they must have a physical address in the United States and they must have a licensed and registered pharmacist available to you to answer questions and offer counseling.
Is It Legal To Buy Drugs From Outside The United States?
Technically, the answer is no, it is not legal to buy drugs and have them shipped to you from outside the United States. This is according to the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Act) (21 U.S.C. section 331) which prohibits the interstate shipment (including importation) of unapproved drugs. Since you would be importing a drug from another country, it would technically in the eyes of the FDA be unapproved, even if it has a approved counterpart available in the United States. Having said all that, the FDA generally allows (or chooses not to enforce) the importation of drugs/medications that are for personal use only and for a quantity that constitutes less than or equal to a 90 day supply. The following is straight from the FDA website:
”The use of FDA resources to provide comprehensive coverage of unapproved new drugs imported for personal use is generally not justified, however, the agency developed guidance in its Regulation Procedures Manual (RPM) entitled “Coverage of Personal Importations”. FDA’s guidance for coverage of personal importations of unapproved drugs identifies several factors that should be considered by FDA personnel when determining whether to exercise enforcement discretion and refrain from taking action against the importation of unapproved drugs.The General Guidance Section states that FDA should consider not taking enforcement actions against such importation: when
1) the intended use [of the drug] is unapproved and for a serious condition for which effective treatment may not be available domestically either through commercial or clinical means;
2) there is no known commercialization or promotion to persons residing in the U.S. by those involved in the distribution of the product at issue;
3) the product is considered not to represent an unreasonable risk; and
4) the individual seeking to import the product affirms in writing that it is for the patient’s own use (generally not more than 3 month supply) and provides the name and address of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for his or her treatment with the product or provides evidence that the product is for the continuation of a treatment begun in a foreign country/area.”
The first sentence says it all. There is no need to waste the time and money of FDA law enforcement by strictly enforcing these laws on middle aged adults who are trying to save money on their blood pressure medicine. These guidelines are certainly a little vague, and are probably intended to be as such. The bottom line is that the FDA understands that some people have a major barrier in regards to the medications they need and the price they cost. Certain drugs in Canada for example can cost 50% less than their American counterparts! As long as you intend to only buy and import a small amount of a prescription medication for personal use, it will probably be just fine and will not be confiscated during shipment.