Best Online Pharmacies
Online pharmacies are a convenient option that eliminate the need for trips to the pharmacy. Using an online account or a mobile app, consumers can manage their prescriptions and treatment programs while accessing prescription drug information to stay informed about side effects and correct drug usage.
By researching and checking the legitimacy of each pharmacy, consumers can minimize any risks associated with online pharmaceutical practices and ensure that they receive quality prescription medications.
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Founded in 1963, CVS Pharmacy is headquartered Woonsocket, Rhode Island. It grew substantially when it acquired Target’s pharmacies in 2015 and today sells prescriptions drugs online and at over 9,600 locations across the nation.
Read 3,081 Reviews
Founded in 1986, Express Scripts is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and offers home-delivery pharmacy and specialty pharmacy services management. Today, it employs over 30,000 people worldwide with plans to expand.
Read 1,797 Reviews
Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Irvine, California, OptumRx is a healthcare management company offering pharmacy benefit management solutions. It has served over 67 million consumers and processed more than 1 billion claims.
Read 1,149 Reviews
Caremark is a division of the retail pharmacy CVS, which helps customers with prescription benefits. They work with employers, medical plan providers and pharmacists, in addition to medical professionals.
Read 1,718 Reviews
Founded in 1901 and headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, Walgreens began as a single drugstore. Today, it operates over 8,000 stores across North America and includes in-store and online pharmacies options for consumers.
Read 1,167 Reviews
Founded in 1962 and headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart is widely known as a worldwide supermarket giant. Today, it operates in 28 countries and has in-store and online pharmacies options available to consumers.
Read 536 Reviews
RiteAid was founded over 50 years ago and is headquartered in East Pennsboro Township, Pennsylvania. It is the largest drugstore chain on the east coast of the United States and the third largest in the nation.
Read 48 Reviews
Kroger is one of the largest grocery store chains in the world. It’s pharmacy lets you order and fill prescriptions online. It also provides information on vaccinations, diabetic needs and patient wellness.
Read 72 Reviews
Headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, Publix operates multiple grocery stores and pharmacies across the Southeast. Publix opened its first in-store pharmacy in 1986 and today has pharmacies in around 90 percent of its stores.
Read 20 Reviews
MMPC’s mission is to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for the uninsured and under-insured. MMPC does this by offering prescription drugs at acquisition cost, instead of using list price derived discount pricing.
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What are considerations when using online pharmacies?
Is having prescription drugs delivered a safe option?
Home delivery is a convenient benefit that both brick-and-mortar and online pharmacies offer. People with recurrent prescription refills or long-term treatment plans as well as those who are unable to easily leave their house can use prescription home delivery to make sure they don’t miss any treatments or scheduled days.
- Controlled distribution: All stationary and online pharmacies that practice good distribution procedures will use controlled distribution systems with drug manufacturers. This ensures drugs are validated and don’t contain dangerous ingredients or have no active ingredients at all.
- Shipping conditions: Shipping and delivery through the mail can be a concern with temperature-sensitive prescription drugs. Factors such as the outside temperature and the temperature inside a mailbox can expose medications to conditions outside of their recommended storage temperature. Most legitimate pharmacies take this into consideration and properly package sensitive medications.
- Risks: Most risks associated with online pharmacies are linked to unverified pharmacies that hold no licenses or accreditation and practice unsafe shipping or delivery methods. To eliminate the risk of receiving counterfeit or improperly shipped drugs, consumers should make sure the pharmacy is properly licensed and accredited.
How are pharmacies licensed and accredited?
Licensing and accreditation are important attributes to consider when looking for an in-store or online pharmacy. Pharmacies should be licensed for all states to which they distribute drugs and they need to have one or more accreditations with a National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) program. Four common accrediting organizations are the Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributors (VAWD), the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS), the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC) and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC).
- VAWD accreditation: VAWD is recognized by the NABP and provides accreditation for pharmacies involved in wholesale drug distribution. To become VAWD-accredited, pharmacies must go through a rigorous review of their operating policies and procedures, licensure verification and an NABP screening.
- VIPPS accreditation: VIPPS has been around since 1999 and is recognized by the NABP. It accredits pharmacies that uphold laws and meet high pharmacy-care standards.
- URAC accreditation: URAC provides a common type of pharmacy accreditation. Consumers will often see that a pharmacy’s specialty treatment services are URAC-accredited.
- ACHC accreditation: The ACHC is a nonprofit home health care organization that offers accreditation in seven health fields including pharmacy. It takes three years to become ACHC-accredited.
How do online pharmacies maintain security?
It is important to make sure an online pharmacy is safe and secure, not only to safeguard personal information but to make sure the drugs being delivered are safe. Aside from looking for licensing and accreditation, there are other steps to take to verify an online pharmacy is legitimate.
- Legitscript: Legitscript is an NABP recognized, online verification and monitoring service for online pharmacies. Consumers can copy and paste an online pharmacy's web address into Legitscript’s verification tool to see if they are a legitimate company.
- Check for a pharmacist: Consumers should not hesitate to call or email the pharmacy to make sure they can talk to a real pharmacist. Typically, an online pharmacy will have a 1-800 number to call should any questions come up about medications. Many online pharmacies have 24/7 access to a pharmacist.
- Prescriptions required: Legitimate pharmacies will always require a prescription from a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. In most cases, the prescription can be provided in person or the pharmacy will call and get the prescription from an individual's doctor over the phone.
What kind of pricing and discounts do online pharmacies offer?
According to the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), the cost of prescription drugs for Americans rose to $2 billion dollars in 2015 and continues to rise. Consequently, one of the biggest questions regarding online pharmacies revolves around how much consumers can save on generic, brand-name and specialty drugs. Chain pharmacies typically run specials and offer rewards programs and discounts for things like recurring refills. Consumers should be sure to check for any fine print and hidden fees or membership fees for discount programs.
- Drug directories: Many pharmacies include a drug directory or drug price look-up tool on their website so consumers can compare pricing. Typically, the directory will show pricing for brand-name drugs compared with generic drugs. Consumers should be aware that their prescription drug insurance plans can affect these prices.
- Discounts: Consumers who don’t have insurance can find discounts on generic drugs that rival or beat the cost of the same drugs for people with insurance plans. The most commonly seen discounts are for medications that require 30- and 90-day refills.
- Rewards programs: Rewards programs are popular with larger chain pharmacies. After enrolling in a rewards program, customers will receive a savings card they can present each time they make a purchase. Rewards programs can save consumers anywhere from 5-20 percent on brand name and generic drugs as well as significant savings for 30- and 90-day refills.
What does it mean when online pharmacies offer specialty services?
Almost all reputable pharmacies are licensed and accredited to provide specialty services for consumers who have rare, chronic or complex diseases that need special, long-term treatment. Consumers should look for an accredited seal that shows the pharmacy can provide specialty services.
- Specialty medications: Specialty medications include those taken orally, intravenously or by injection. They often require special storage and handling requirements and need to be taken on a strict schedule.
- Included services: Specialty services include safe, on-time delivery of medications, refill reminders and free information about drugs, such as how speciality drugs interact with other drugs and how to administer injections at home. Specialty services are different for each condition but most pharmacies can provide services for those with conditions like cancer, cystic fibrosis, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, infertility or arthritis and those who are transplant patients.
- Financial assistance: Many pharmacies have insight about foundations and organizations that cater specifically to rare and chronic conditions and will help patients enroll in financial assistance programs through them. Patients should talk to a pharmacist about criteria for financial aid through such organizations.
What kind of technology do online pharmacies use?
Consumers who prefer using computers or mobile devices over going to an in-store pharmacy can take advantage of the integrated online options most pharmacies provide. In most cases, pharmacies offer online portals that allow people to conduct tasks such as refilling prescriptions, placing new orders and scheduling home deliveries.
- Online portals: Online portals allow consumers to create an account that will store personal information, insurance details and specific information about their prescriptions and medications. Consumers can also store their primary care doctor or licensed healthcare provider’s information so the pharmacy can call to get prescriptions and approvals for refills automatically.
- Mobile app: Many chain pharmacies have mobile apps that integrate with their pharmacy services. Consumers can download the app and have access to unique and convenient features like refilling prescriptions by scanning a pill bottle, identifying drugs by their physical appearance, uploading an image of their insurance card and chatting with a pharmacy expert 24/7.
What are the different types of online pharmacies?
Traditional online pharmacies require a prescription from a doctor following an exam and will usually carry any prescription drug consumers can find at their neighborhood pharmacies. These pharmacies typically offer the lowest prices of any online pharmacy. Traditional online pharmacies in North America include major United States national chains as well as neighborhood pharmacies in the United States and Canada. Traditional online pharmacies also operate in India, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and large domestic and international online pharmacy fulfillment centers.
Remote consultation online pharmacies do not require a written prescription from a doctor after an in-person exam. Instead, they work with doctors who review people’s self-reported medical history and write a prescription if deemed appropriate. Remote consultations have been regarded as “substandard” practices by the American Medical Association because they do not put a customer's health first.
Who uses online pharmacies?
People looking to save money
The biggest selling point of an online pharmacy is the amount of money consumers can save. In most cases, people can save up to 50-80 percent by purchasing prescription drugs through an online pharmacy.
Elderly or homebound people
Elderly or homebound people with numerous prescriptions can keep them filled without leaving the house. Online pharmacies are convenient options that deliver prescriptions directly to their front doors.
Frequent pharmacy visitors
Most online pharmacies can schedule ongoing prescriptions to be refilled and delivered on certain days each month.
People looking to save time
People with important obligations such as work or a child's schedule may not have time to wait in line at an on-site pharmacy. Browsing prescriptions online and setting up delivery times can be a big time-saver.
Expert reviews for online pharmacies
Giant Eagle Pharmacy offers consumers convenient options when it comes to filling and refilling prescriptions and specialty pharmacy needs. The company even offers refills for pet medication refills and contact lenses. Giant Eagle makes managing prescriptions easy with its online portal and offers savings on generic medications.
Publix provides consumers with in-store and online pharmacy services in nearly 90 percent of its stores. From free medications, online prescription refills and specialty online pharmacy services, Publix has multiple options to make pharmacy services more convenient.
Walmart operates in-store and online pharmacies in most of its supercenter stores. Its pharmacies provide customers with discount brand name and generic prescriptions for consumers or their pets. Prescription refills are easy and they offer home delivery for medications, including pet medicine.
Walgreens Pharmacy is a widely-known provider of pharmaceutical services across North America. Walgreens’ online pharmacy is a quick, convenient way to get prescriptions refilled. Prescriptions can be delivered to a specific store and managed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Consumers can set up an account and manage their health from an online dashboard.
Costco operates over 700 locations worldwide with many of those stores having pharmacies on site. Costco also provides online pharmacy services such as prescription refills, home delivery, fulfilling new prescription orders and fulfilling pet prescriptions. Consumers do not need to be a member of Costco’s membership program to participate in their online pharmacy services.
After quiring Target in 2015, CVS is now the largest chain pharmacy in the United States, operating in over 9,000 locations. Its online pharmacy offers services such mobile prescription pickup, discount prescription drugs, new prescriptions and refill management and drug information.
RiteAid has grown to become the third-largest drugstore chain in the United States. Operating mainly on the east coast, it provides multiple pharmacy services, both in-store and online. Services include prescription refills and transfers, one-trip refills, home delivery, Medicare Part D plans and specialty pharmacy services.
Compare Reviews for Top Online Pharmacies
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Costco is a membership warehouse club offering both members and nonmembers pharmacy services. It opened its first location in 1976 and today operates over 700 locations bringing in over $116 billion in annual sales.
|Giant Eagle Pharmacy|
Read 39 Reviews
Giant Eagle is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has been servicing consumers with groceries for over 80 years. Today, it offers in-store and online pharmacy services to consumers needing affordable prescriptions.
Read 43 Reviews
AARP offers a prescription drug discount program provided by OptumRx that includes free, exclusive discounts to AARP members, spouses and dependents. This program is accepted at over 66,000 pharmacies across the United States.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
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