Can You Save Money By Using an Online Pharmacy?

pharmacy meds

50% of the US population takes at least one prescription drug. That might seem like a lot of people but it’s a steep reduction from years past (2013 saw 70% of people taking prescriptions).

While it’s nice to know that so many citizens that need medication are able to get their hands on it, the relationship that Americans have with prescribed drugs isn’t all candy canes and rainbows. Drugs are one of the chief contributors to a person’s medical debt, which is the number one reason why people declare bankruptcy every year.

In an effort to bring down the cost burden that prescriptions carry, we’re seeing patients weigh online pharmacy options to try and get a better deal. But can you really save money at an online pharmacy?

This post breaks down everything that you need to know about getting your prescription filled over the internet.

How Big Is the Prescription Drug Problem?

Before we dive into what an online pharmacy is and how they may be able to solve people’s prescription drug problems, it’s important that we understand the scope of the drug pricing issue.

Each year, people in the United States spend a whopping 325 billion dollars on prescriptions. That’s about $1,000.00 for every man, woman, and child living in the country. The massive burden of that cost has led to 33% of the population not being able to afford the potentially life-saving medication that they need.

What Constitutes an Online Pharmacy?

Now that you know the rough scale of the US prescription pricing problem, let’s discuss online pharmacies.

Note that online pharmacies in the context of this post refer to pharmacies that operate solely online, at least domestically. That means that refilling your prescription through Walgreen’s online portal doesn’t qualify.

In many cases, online pharmacies that Americans use are based abroad. There are some internet-based organizations that carry US address though.

Can an Online Pharmacy Save You Money?

The million-dollar question is whether or not an online pharmacy can save you money on your prescriptions. That answer is that it could… Maybe.

Online pharmacies vary in their prices (the same way that prices vary between traditional pharmacies). That means that one pharmacy could offer you a lower price on medication than you’re used to while another pharmacy could be offering your medicine for pain, diabetes, or anything else at a markup.

Here are a few reasons why, generally speaking, you could save by using online pharmacies.

Less Overhead

Pharmacies that operate solely online enjoy significantly lower overhead costs when compared to brick-and-mortar pharmacies. Brick-and-mortars need to lease a building, purchase brick-and-mortar insurance policies and need to hire more people to manage in-house customers.

Those savings can be passed onto consumers.

Better Prices Are an Important Selling Point

The biggest sell that online pharmacies have when attracting consumers is the fact that they have better prices than your local pharmacy. If they don’t have that benefit to share with customers, why would anybody choose to do business with them over a local pharmacy that they know and trust?

International Possibilities

With many online pharmacies being based abroad, they can offer their domestic drug prices to US citizens. In almost all cases, international territories enjoy better drug prices than the United States. This is due to market conditions and government regulations.

What to Watch Out For

Given the potential cost benefits that online pharmacies carry, it might seem like a no-brainer to try buying from one. Unfortunately, there are caveats when buying drugs online that can complicate the situation.

Here are three primary things to keep in mind before buying:


There are hundreds of online pharmacies that are illegitimate. Best case scenario, these pharmacies will sell you good drugs without being licensed to do so. Worst case scenario, these pharmacies will steal your money or give you ineffective or poisonous drugs.

Any online pharmacy that’s legally permitted to sell in the United States needs to be licensed by the Department of Health. You can find the full USDOH list of licensed pharmacies here.

Shipping Controlled Substances Across Borders

When you order a prescription from a legitimate pharmacy abroad, you do it to save money. Unfortunately, the federal government may assume that you’re doing it to circumvent drug laws.

It is a federal offense to ship controlled substances across United States borders. Many people do it, especially when buying drugs from the UK or Canada, but if you get caught, you could go to jail. For that reason, no matter how safe or cheap drugs are that you can buy abroad, you run a serious risk when importing prescriptions.

Drugs Without a Prescription

Any online pharmacy that’s worth doing business with will require that you send them your prescription before they send you drugs. If you found a fast and loose pharmacy that doesn’t ask for your prescription, stay away.

These pharmacies are breaking the law and shouldn’t be trusted with providing you safe medication.

Look Into Online Pharmacy Options and See If You Can Save

Not everybody that weighs their online pharmacy options is going to save money. Some do, though, and for that reason, we recommend looking into what’s available to you.

Again, just be wary when buying drugs abroad. Paying less for your prescriptions may not be worth the possibility of jail time.

For additional tips to save money on all of the important stuff in your life, head back to our blog’s directory and check out more of our newest content!

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