Just curious--do you buy prescription drugs online? Have you considered doing so?

Millions of Americans buy prescription drugs online both from domestic and foreign sites. A good strategy to save money, but it's a good news/bad news situation, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

The good news:

"Many pharmacies offer price comparisons between their charge and that of other legitimate pharmacies. This is one way to stretch your health care dollar. Many online pharmacies accept prescription benefit insurance coverage as well. In addition, legitimate online pharmacies often offer valuable health care information in a searchable format. VIPPS-accredited pharmacies are required to offer their customers free phone consultation with a pharmacist, and many offer free ask-a-pharmacist email service as well."

The bad news:

"The safety and efficacy of these medications cannot be guaranteed. Many countries’ drug research and control programs are not as safety-oriented as those in the US. Though some of the drugs advertised by foreign sites may be manufactured by the same name brand international drug manufacturer as you are used to, they usually are not manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities that have met FDA standards. Further, sometimes the medications have been subjected to storage conditions that compromised their potency or safety."

In other words, caveat emptor! Thankfully there are credible resources that you can use, as reported by The New York Times in Ask Well: Buying Cheaper Drugs Online:

"Last year, [Roger Bate, a pharmaceutical expert at the American Enterprise Institute] and his colleagues published a study analyzing 372 orders of five popular prescription drugs – Lipitor, Celebrex, Viagra, Nexium and Zoloft – that they purchased from 79 domestic and foreign online drug outlets. Products bought from Canadian or other foreign sites certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) or PharmacyChecker.com were of high quality. So were products ordered from American sites verified by either the N.A.B.P. or LegitScript.com, a certification agency founded by a former White House aide on drug policy issues."