The Pros and Cons of Using an Online Pharmacy

The Pros and Cons of Using an Online Pharmacy

The use of, and advances in, technology are on the rise. From shopping to business meetings, an online presence is the new “norm,” especially in times of pandemic restrictions. However, brick-and-mortar stores are not yet a thing of the past. In addition to businesses that operate completely online, many retail and healthcare sectors maintain physical locations while also flourishing virtually.


Telemedicine has largely replaced many traditional doctor visits and checkups. But, did you know that your prescriptions can be filled and mailed directly to you using an online pharmacy? You might be skeptical about the idea of using a digital pharmacy and this is a valid concern. You should know, though, that, with the changing of the times, online pharmacies can be utilized safely, as long as you use a little common sense and do some research.

Evaluating Online Pharmacies

Before signing up and providing any personal health information, make sure to research the online pharmacy you want to use. Does the website look professional and legitimate? Is it based in the United States? Do they provide contact information enabling you to talk to a pharmacist and/or pharmacy staff in case of any questions? These are some important questions you should ask.


Most importantly, only use online pharmacies that are accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Online pharmacies accredited by the NABP will have an Accredited Digital Pharmacy (formerly VIPPS) seal located on their landing page. The NABP website also contains a comprehensive list of accredited digital pharmacies. Remembering these key points will guide you to a legitimate digital pharmacy and keep your personal health information safe.


  • The biggest benefit of using an online pharmacy is simple: convenience. Your provider can send your prescriptions electronically (known as e-prescribing) to your digital pharmacy of choice, as they would with any brick-and-mortar pharmacy. The online pharmacy will then process the prescription (known as an e-script) and mail it directly to your door within a few business days.

  • If your prescription is processed through insurance, the difference in copay cost should be negligible from pharmacy to pharmacy, unless your prescription insurance plan has a preferred pharmacy in their network.

  • Registering for a digital pharmacy is relatively simple and straightforward. Requesting refills is easy too, and can be done with a few button clicks in the comfort of your home.


The use of a digital pharmacy can also have its downsides. As mentioned above, making sure you choose a legitimate and trustworthy online pharmacy is of utmost importance. Other than that, two main considerations come to mind.

  • There may be a definite lack of personability. At a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, you are able to see, chat, and gain a rapport with the pharmacy technicians and pharmacist. If you have any questions or concerns in the digital pharmacy world, you will more than likely be triaged to a customer care pharmacy team member as opposed to being able to speak directly with the pharmacist who actually verified your prescription.

  • Some digital pharmacies may not be able to fill controlled substance prescriptions, since these are highly regulated by the DEA and state boards of pharmacy. These may be required to be filled at a local pharmacy, where they must be picked up in person, depending upon state regulations.

In Summary

There are definitely pros and cons to the use of a digital pharmacy rather than a traditional one. While convenience is the biggest benefit, the lack of personability may be a downside, in addition to the skepticism of using one. Either way, choosing a digital pharmacy accredited by the NABP will keep your health information and prescriptions safe.

An Alternative

Some traditional pharmacies may also have online/digital capabilities through their website or smartphone app to make ordering refills or setting prescription reminders easier. Many also provide prescription delivery or will send them discreetly through the mail, especially important if there are concerns about social distancing. If the use of a strictly digital pharmacy is not for you, the use of a traditional pharmacy with digital capabilities may be a more favorable option.

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