Why is prescription medicine cheaper online?

Before buying your grandchild a birthday gift from the store, you might check online to see if you can find a better deal. Did you know you can do the same for your prescription medicine?

Your granddaughter’s birthday is the perfect excuse to spoil her with that extra special gift. But before you buy the one you’ve been eyeing at the store, you always check online to see if it’s cheaper somewhere else.

Sound like you? No longer do we have to rely on the corner store for all of our purchases. Often, we can get a better deal from buying items online. The same goes for your prescription medicine.

Prescription costs keep going up

Each year, the cost of prescription medicines goes up. Unfortunately, these costs won’t be going down in the near future. This has forced people to look for other options. One way to potentially get medicine at a lower cost is to order through a mail order pharmacy.

What is a mail order pharmacy?

A mail order pharmacy, which is sometimes called an online pharmacy, allows you to get your prescription medicine through the mail. Depending on your plan, these prescriptions might be cheaper. With some mail order companies, you may only pay two copay’s for a three-month supply of medicine.

If you search online, you can find a lot of mail order pharmacies. But, many of these aren’t real pharmacies – meaning they aren’t regulated by any agencies and they may send you unsafe medicine.

The dangers of a rogue pharmacy

Not all online (mail order) pharmacies are safe or legal. We really don’t want you to get into a situation where you’re getting unsafe medicine. These fake pharmacies, often called “rogue pharmacies,” seem like a good option because they offer cheaper medicine. But there’s something to that old saying, “you get what you pay for.” Some studies have found that medicine from these pharmacies didn’t have enough amounts of the actual medicine to be effective. Worse yet, some medicine had chalk, glue, poison and other harmful ingredients.

Top three things to look for in a mail order pharmacy

Before you purchase your prescription medication online, look for these three things:

1. They’re certified – Mail order pharmacies should be certified as a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS). There are fewer than 50 pharmacies in the United States that have this accreditation. VIPPS certified pharmacies must be reviewed every three years. You can tell if a mail order pharmacy is VIPPS certified by looking for the official VIPPS logo on their website.

2. They’re affiliated with a reputable organization – Rogue pharmacies come and go. They tend to pop up online and then disappear quickly. That’s why it’s important to get your prescription medicine from a mail order pharmacy that’s part of a company you know and trust.

3. They always need your prescription – Rogue pharmacies will say they don’t need a prescription for medicine, controlled substances or narcotics. This is not only alarming, but it’s illegal. Any certified mail order pharmacy will require a doctor’s prescription before sending your medicine.

If you’re looking for cheaper prescription medicine, contact your health insurance provider to discuss your options. They can advise you on lower-cost alternatives. Many health plans have Pharmacy Navigators that can talk through your medicines and help you find the lowest priced options.

  • Betsy Niemela is a Pharmacy Programs Manager at HealthPartners. She knows how overwhelming health care can be, and enjoys helping members navigate confusing and frustrating issues and learning from those instances. Outside of work, Betsy enjoys sketching, painting and music. She also loves hiking with her dog Chester and enjoying the Midwest's four seasons.


    See more posts by Betsy >

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