The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, or NABP, has accredited 28 approved online pharmacies. Its program, VIPPS, or Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, gives accreditation only to legitimate pharmacies whose practices are approved by the NABP. When you go with VIPPS-approved websites, your patient information is as protected and secure as it would be at a trustworthy local pharmacy.

Visit NABP for a list of VIPPS pharmacies for safe online shopping.

Don’t Play Doctor

Legitimate online pharmacies require a doctor’s prescription for all prescription meds, and they’ll monitor your prescriptions to protect you from harmful drug interactions. Don’t trust any site that lets you order prescriptions without your physician’s approval.

If you have an adverse unexpected side effect from a medication purchased online, contact your physician immediately. Never take medications that are cracked or chipped or come in bottles that are sloppily labeled or mishandled. If you are worried about the appearance of a medication, contact the online pharmacy and voice your concerns before taking it.

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” says Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

An extremely low price can be a sign that there’s something fishy going on. For example, if you normally pay $100 for your medicine and you can get it for $5, be careful. It could mean the drugs are sold outside the U.S. and aren’t approved by the FDA.

You can buy genuine medication online at Canadian Pharmacy store.

You should be able to talk with one on the phone, by email, or online, says Laura E. Knockel, PharmD, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Iowa.

Look for a 1-800 number. Call the pharmacist if you have any questions, even a small one.