Want to save money, but worried about ordering prescriptions online? Knowing what to look for will keep you safe and your bank account happy.
If you regularly take medication to control diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, or another chronic health condition, you know how expensive prescription meds can be. And you are not alone. Consumer spending on prescriptions has risen sharply. Americans spent $130 billion on their prescriptions in 2015, according to a recent IMS Health report. The report also stated that amount was up 8.5% from the previous year.
You’ve also probably looked into or even actually tried saving money on prescriptions drugs by purchasing them online. If you’ve ever considered using an online pharmacy, you’re probably looking to save money.
The best way to save money on your prescriptions is to check prices, of course. But many people don’t do that. According to a Consumer Reports poll last year, only 17% comparison shopped when faced with high prescription costs.
Can You Find Cheap Prescriptions without Using a Mail Order Pharmacy?
One of the problems with going into a pharmacy and purchasing your medication is that these pharmacies often charge different prices for the same drugs. Sometimes there is even a price difference of $100. According to a report published by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the prices of medications purchased at brick-and-mortar pharmacies or drug stores varied widely, with large pharmacies charging between 8% and 840% more than smaller pharmacies.
This discrepancy exists due to the lack of transparency in drug pricing. The pricing information is not published in a way that is easily understandable to consumers, which makes it harder to find cheap prescriptions without using a mail-order pharmacy.
Comparing Prices of Generic and Brand Name Drugs vs. Local Pharmacy Prices
There’s more to comparing drug prices than knowing which drug store charges the most, although that is useful information to have. Another way to save money is to look for a generic version. Generics are the same as name brand drugs but cost less.
When a drug first comes out, it can only be manufactured by the original patent holder. The patent protection for a brand name drug is usually 20 years from the date the patent was submitted. Once this has expired, other companies can make the same drug. Your doctor can tell you if there is a generic version of the drugs you are taking, and using them can result in prescription drug savings.
However, online pharmacies sell drugs for considerably less than most drug stores or pharmacies. When you buy drugs regularly for a chronic condition, this adds up to significant savings. And ordering online eliminates frequent trips to the pharmacy to pick up your prescriptions.
Legal and Safety Concerns When Ordering
When ordering prescriptions online, you may worry whether they are legal and safe. To be sure, there are many rogue foreign online pharmacies that advertise great savings. This is a case not just of buyer beware, but buyer be knowledgeable. Rogue pharmacies often sell medication that is not the correct strength or quality as an accredited online pharmacy.
Online pharmacies are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Look for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) and LegitScript accreditations. Legit online pharmacies will display these trust icons prominently on their website. Here are some quick tips for buying prescriptions from a safe online pharmacy:
- Make sure the site requires a valid prescription from a doctor or other licensed healthcare professional.
- Are licensed by your state’s board of pharmacy, or equivalent state agency.
- Has a pharmacist available for questions.
- Is located in the United States.
The website BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy, developed by the FDA, has detailed information about finding safe and legal online pharmacies. And, of course, don’t give personal and credit card information until you are sure the site is a secure, authorized online pharmacy.
How Does a Mail Order Pharmacy Work?
Once you’ve taken all the steps to ensure that you are ordering from an accredited, trusted online pharmacy, the rest is easy. Shopping for prescription drugs at a legitimate online pharmacy is not much different than buying shoes, books, or pet supplies over the internet – except you need a prescription.
You’ll be asked to provide some basic information about yourself as well as the details of the prescription you want filled. You can have your doctor fax or phone in the prescription, or have the site contact your doctor directly. Basically, they perform the same service as your brick-and-mortar pharmacy. The only difference is the way they communicate with you and your physician. And the price, of course.