Is it safe to order medication online?

Written by Tod Cooperman, MD | Posted marzo 28, 2017 | Updated noviembre 19, 2021

If done correctly, ordering medication online can be done very safely, but it can be very dangerous if folks aren't careful.

So how can you safely order medication online? By only using online pharmacies which follow high standards of pharmacy practice — that is, they are licensed in countries with high standards, require a valid prescription, and protect your information. Fortunately, there are established organizations, such as, a U.S. based company, which do a good job checking the credentials of online pharmacies so you know which are safest. 

Independent research shows that as long as consumers used such pharmacies for medications purchased online (foreign or domestic) they were generally safe doing so. In addition, online pharmacies outside the U.S. (where brand name medications often cost 90% less than in the U.S.) can be just as safe as those in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about nineteen million Americans say they have obtained medications by importing them for personal use because the prices were lower. Government surveys have shown about four to five million Americans take advantage of this annually.

Be aware that, in most cases, it remains technically illegal for people in the U.S. to import their medication for personal use, however, the U.S government has not prosecuted individuals for doing this. (Click to find more about drug importation laws, regulations and policies.)

Other online pharmacy credentialing groups include the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program (VIPPS); LegitScript and the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). VIPPS and LegitScript will not grant approval to international online pharmacies that sell medications to consumers in the U.S. CIPA, a trade association of Canadian pharmacies, which source medications that come from pharmacies in and outside of Canada, has standards similar but not identical to

The most important difference between programs run by and VIPPS is that VIPPS essentially limits its coverage to U.S. online pharmacies, while covers the U.S. as well as Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and select, inspected pharmacies in Turkey, India, Mauritius, and Singapore.

VIPPS is run by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and will reject any international online pharmacy that sells medication in to the U.S. The program was started in New York in 2002 by Tod Cooperman, M.D. and its verification program is run by Dr. Shivam Patel, a licensed pharmacist in Massachusetts.  See a comparison of the VIPPS and PharmacyChecker programs.

Details about the program are found in its Verification Program Guide and Standards and those for VIPPS are found in its Criteria and Standards.

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