April Fraud Fridays – Safely Navigating Online Pharmacies

By Jessica Johnson, SIU Clinical Consultant, Prime Therapeutics

April 28, 2023

Much like the rise in telehealth in recent years, online pharmacies have become a convenient, and ever more popular, part of the modern health care ecosystem. A 2021 survey published by the National Library of Medicine reported that among U.S. adults, “web-based prescription-filling behavior” more than doubled between 2009 and 2018. And with several new retailers launching online pharmacies in recent years – including Amazon – the market is only expected to grow rapidly.

Reputable online pharmacies present a viable alternative to their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but it largely comes down to consumer preference. While choice in and of itself is not the concern, some less-than-reputable online retailers go to great lengths to attract potential customers, including direct appeals on social media with claims that they offer prices that are “too good to be true.”

Like so many other online schemes, online pharmacy scams can pose a significant risk, but that can be easy to spot… if you know what to look for. We’ve compiled the following tips to help consumers check if an online pharmacy is safe:

Prime April Fraud Fridays Safe Online Pharmacies Tips

  1. Make sure the pharmacy requires a prescription before you can get medicine.
  2. Confirm that a pharmacist is available to answer your questions and provide drug information.
  3. Look for a U.S.-based address, phone number and licensing info on its website.
  4. Copy and paste the pharmacy’s web address into the free search tool from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP) to confirm it’s a verified, safe online pharmacy

Another general tip to make sure an online pharmacy is reputable is right in front of you – look for the domain “.pharmacy” or “.safepharmacy” at the end of the web address. When a website ends in “.pharmacy,” it has been verified by NABP. Unlike logos, the “.pharmacy” domain cannot be faked or forged. For more, check here.

To recap our previous April Fraud Fridays posts, visit the Prime Therapeutics Perspectives blog. And stay tuned for more fraud prevention tips and updates from the Prime Special Investigations Unit as we continue to explore health care schemes that put people and our health care system at risk.

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