Buying Medicine Online – What Are the Risks?

Buying Medicine Safely OnlineFor some, using an online pharmacy offers convenience and savings when they are obtaining prescription medicines for themselves and their families. But being an informed consumer is more important than ever when it comes to buying medication online. The majority of websites selling medications are not what they appear to be. NABP has reviewed over 12,000 online drug outlets and found that 95% appear to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. What does this mean?

Buying from rogue online drug sellers puts consumers at risk of:

  • Receiving pills that contain such fillers as drywall and rat poison
  • Having your financial and other personal information stolen
  • Having your email inbox flooded with spam that could infect your home computer with viruses

In the worst cases, people have died from receiving counterfeit medications that didn’t treat their serious medical conditions.

NABP has led the charge in increasing patient safety for quite a while, starting with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites® (VIPPS®) program that has granted accreditation to safe online pharmacies in the US since 1999, reviewing thousands of websites and providing a “Not Recommended” list since 2008, and becoming the official registry operator for the new .pharmacy domain in 2014.

NABP launched  the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program because verifications and logos aren’t enough anymore. Criminals can easily create fake sites and copy fake logos. The sites look professional, authoritative, and credible. In reality, they are providing consumers with substandard or fake medicine. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that between 100,000 and 1 million people die each year from counterfeit medications. Here are some other startling facts about the prevalence of rogue online drug sellers:

  • Every day, 20 new illegal pharmacies appear on the internet, as reported by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.
  • 62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard, as indicated in a report from the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines.
  • 89% of illegal online pharmacies do not require a valid prescription, as found through NABP’s review and analysis.

Resources for Buying Safely

Being well informed is the best way to stay safe when purchasing medicine online. NABP offers many resources to help consumers and pharmacists educate themselves, their families, and their communities.


Find a .Pharmacy Verified Website

The Buying Safely section of provides a list of .pharmacy sites as well as information on spotting rogue online pharmacies. All VIPPS-accredited pharmacies must go through the .pharmacy verification process before they can apply for VIPPS accreditation.

Not Recommended List

The Not Recommended List is a list of websites that have been found to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards.

Resources for Pharmacists

The AWARxE Prescription Drug Safety Program provides resources for pharmacists including downloadable flyers to help educate patients about buying safely online, as well as other important prescription drug safety issues.

Partnering to Combat Illicit Prescription Drug Sellers

In addition to our many accreditation programs, NABP is working with several organization to combat those that sell or distribute prescription drug illicitly.

Fight the Fakes

Fight the Fakes is a campaign that aims to raise awareness about the dangers of fake medicines. The campaign gives a voice to those who have been personally impacted and shares the stories of those working to put a stop to this threat to public health. It seeks to build a global movement of organizations and individuals who will shine light on the negative impact that fake medicines have on people around the globe and to reduce the negative consequences on individuals worldwide.

The Fentanyl Council

The Fentanyl Council is a joint project of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and the Partnership for Safe Medicines, created to raise awareness of illicit fentanyl’s danger to Americans.

ASOP Global 

ASOP Global works with stakeholders around the world to address the public health threat of illegal online drug sellers, concentrating on research, education, internet commerce company voluntary actions, and policy and advocacy.