Online pharmacies enable people to purchase the medications they need from the privacy of their own home and have them delivered to their front door.
Online pharmacies provide an important level of convenience for the elderly and those with mobility issues. They also allow people with hectic lifestyles to save time and hassle, while simultaneously providing a discreet service that enables them to keep their private business private.
Not all online pharmacies are above board. Some try to sell controlled substances in direct violation of federal and state laws. Therefore, it is essential to choose an online pharmacy you can trust. The following are the best online pharmacies of 2021.
PlushCare is a San Francisco-based online pharmacy that offers an array of top-quality meds at reasonable prices. You can order through the website or use their handy app to place an order or talk to a medical professional about a prescription.
What we like: PlushCare will refill your existing prescription or issue you a new one, as long as it is not for a controlled substance. Ordering is fast, and they are one of the few that accepts most major insurance plans.
Flaws: You will not be able to get controlled substances including opioids, Valium, Adderall, and such.
2. Blink Health
Blink Health is a New York-based online pharmacy that dispenses more than 15,000 medications. If you have a valid prescription, they can fill it for you. If you lack a prescription, their in-house medical team can provide one for certain non-controlled substances.
What we like: You can pick up at your neighborhood pharmacy or pay a bit more for home delivery. They accept valid prescriptions for virtually any medication or will offer a limited number of meds via consultations with their in-house medical team.
Flaws: Controlled substances etc are not available for home delivery.
Most of the big pharmacies offer limited online purchasing and delivery options. Walgreens is the exception. They put a lot of work into making their online pharmacy top-notch. And they offer one thing virtually no one else does: a mail-order prescription service for Medicare patients.
What we like: They are easy to work with and process orders fast. You can be sure you are getting the real thing, not a counterfeit. Their mail-order Medicare option separates them from the competition.
Flaws: They cost a bit more, but your experience will be hassle-free.
4. Faast Pharmacy
Faast Pharmacy is an American company based in Bakersfield, California. It was one of the first online pharmacies to gain real traction and has been in business continuously since 2005. If you have a prescription, they can provide most any medication.
What we like: They provide a host of generic equivalents that allows you to save money. If you do not have a prescription, they will provide one for you (but only for non-controlled substances). Delivery is fast and dependable.
Flaws: The slightly furtive nature of their website does not inspire confidence. But they have a basically solid reputation and have been around for 15 years.
5. Health Warehouse
Health Warehouse is an online pharmacy out of Kentucky that ships medications to all 50 states. They will fill existing prescriptions, refill existing prescriptions, or you can use their in-house medical team to obtain a prescription for non-narcotic medications.
What we like: They offer a wide variety of OTC and generic medications. They are also able to provide certain controlled substances. Although not Schedule II controlled substances. They also have a full complement of diabetic supplies.
Flaws: Because they are above board, it will take up to 5 days to process your prescription.
QuickRxRefill works with your local pharmacy to quickly fill your prescription and have it ready for you to pick up in short order. They specialize in providing common medications for conditions including ED, herpes, high blood pressure, UTIs, and more.
What we like: If you do not have a prescription, one of their in-house doctors gets back to you quickly and arranges one for you. They don’t pretend to be all things to all people, but what they do they do well.
Flaws: No home delivery. No serial prescriptions for serious conditions like heart disease.
At WebDoctors (formerly MD Proactive), you can obtain a refill for an existing prescription or talk directly to an MD and obtain a new prescription for your particular condition. WebDoctors is not technically a ‘pharmacy,’ but if the goal is to obtain medication, you can do that here.
What we like: They work with most major pharmacies. Consultations are fast and friendly. They provide medication for most common maladies, including sinusitis, upper respiratory tract infections, and UTIs.
Flaws: The doctor consultation rates are pretty high. There is no home delivery.
8. Planet Drugs Direct
Planet Drugs Direct is a Canadian company that enables you to order virtually any type of prescription drug and have it filled through your local pharmacy. They also offer home delivery, though not for narcotics or other controlled substances.
What we like: They process orders quickly and deliver them anywhere in the US. If you have a valid prescription, they ship just about any medication at a reasonable price. They offer an array of generic alternatives.
Flaws: Planet Drugs Direct does not have in-house medical staff to write prescriptions for non-narcotic meds. Delivery can be slow.
9. Northwest Pharmacy
Northwest Pharmacy is a Canadian enterprise that works with affiliate pharmacies in various countries to provide a range of medications for home delivery. You can procure virtually any type of non-narcotic medication through them, and their delivery rate is a flat $9.99.
What we like: They offer three ways to order from them; online, by phone or fax, or by mail. They fill most valid prescriptions without any hassle. Under normal circumstances they get your meds to you in just over a week.
Flaws: Ordering anything from an international source at the moment, even Canada, is going to be slowed by flight disruptions caused by the covid-19 outbreak.
PharmaPassport is a licensed Canadian online pharmacy that provides an array of non-narcotic drugs to those holding valid prescriptions. They ship brand name and generic drugs throughout the US from an affiliated pharmacy in Florida.
What we like: Their website is very easy to use. They insist on a prescription, which is always a good sign. Their website offers 100% secure online transactions. And they will make a licensed pharmacist available should you need to consult one.
Flaws: Payment options are limited.
Who Needs Online Pharmacies?
Older folks who are unable to leave their homes without assistance, or who are hesitant to venture outside during the winter, can benefit from using an online pharmacy. Younger people with mobility issues will find online pharmacies convenient and safe. Anyone who wants to keep their private business private will appreciate the discretion afforded by online pharmacies.
In addition, anyone with a busy lifestyle who wants to minimize the number of errands they have to run will appreciate the convenience of online pharmacies. And budget-conscious consumers looking for a way to cut their medical expenses will appreciate the savings potential of purchasing meds online.
How We Ranked
There are scores of rogue online pharmacies littering the internet, selling their counterfeit or illegal medications. So the first order of business when determining the best online pharmacies is to separate the real deals from the fake, illegal, and potentially dangerous wannabes. As such, any online pharmacy that offered to sell controlled substances did not make our list.
Another thing that separates the real online pharmacies from the mercenaries is whether they insist on a prescription. Any website that offered to sell prescription drugs without a prescription – no matter how popular that site may be – did not make our list because it is not a true online pharmacy.
Once we eliminated the outright fakes, it was time to consider things like the variety of medications a particular online pharmacy offered. Some seem fixated on pushing as much erectile dysfunction medicine as the population can endure and do not stock much else. And while we appreciate that ED meds have helped millions of men, we wanted to see more variety in the product offerings.
Those that offered a robust lineup of generic equivalents scored extra points, since saving money is one of the big reasons people turn to online pharmacies to begin with. We also considered shipping options. Did the online pharmacy offer shipping options, including expedited shipping? And we took into account how long various online pharmacies had been in operation and their overall reputation.
Online pharmacies are convenient. With an online pharmacy, you can order whatever kind of non-narcotic medication you need in the privacy of your own home and have it delivered to your doorstep. It is a level of convenience that was unthinkable in the not too distant past.
Online pharmacies can save you money. Although the primary benefit of online pharmacies is convenience, there is also the possibility you might save a significant amount of money. It will depend on the type of medication you need, how much you purchase and where the medicine is sourced from. Medications sourced from Canada, for instance, are typically less expensive (1) than those sourced from the US.
Online pharmacies are legal. At least the best ones are. In any type of business you are going to have those who operate on the margins, who skirt laws in an effort to cash in on demand. But there are many online pharmacies that provide high-quality medications for people in need and do so within a completely legal framework. This allows you to obtain the meds you need without worrying about legal repercussions.
Online pharmacies save you time. Unless you live in the city center, it is probably a long way to the nearest pharmacy. If you have a busy professional and personal life, any such errands you can eliminate will save time for more important things. Ordering your medication through an online pharmacy typically takes just a few minutes and can be done while enjoying your morning coffee or before sitting down to eat lunch.
Online pharmacies offer a wide array of prescription medications. Most online pharmacies carry a plethora of popular medications including allergy meds, antibiotics, antifungals (2), erectile dysfunction meds, muscle relaxants, sleep aids, seizure medications, and more. The only things you will not find at a reputable online pharmacy are Schedule II controlled substances (3), including opioids.
Online pharmacies provide over the counter medications too. While you are purchasing the prescription meds you need, you might also want to pick up some NSAIDs, allergy meds, heartburn meds, or other OTC medications. That way, you always have enough on hand. It can save you a trip to the store and may save you money.
Online pharmacies are discreet. When you purchase your medication through an online pharmacy, you are the only one who knows. You do not have to stand in line at the drugstore, prescription in hand, waiting to be served. Your medication is delivered to your home in a discreet package, your credit card bill does not indicate what you bought, and you can go on about your life confident that your business stays your business.
Online pharmacies are safe. When you purchase your medication through one of the online pharmacies profiled above, you do not have to worry about the safety and efficacy of the meds you receive. Reputable online pharmacies sell only high-quality brand name or prescription drugs. They do not traffic in potentially dangerous or watered down counterfeit drugs that so many fake online pharmacies specialize in.
Online pharmacies often deliver overnight. If you are running out of an important medication, you cannot afford to wait. Different online pharmacies offer different shipping options. Some offer overnight shipping to certain places. So if you need something in a hurry, make sure to buy from a pharmacy that provides some type of expedited shipping.
Online pharmacies can arrange a prescription for you. If you do not have a prescription for a particular medication, many online pharmacies will put you in touch with an affiliated medical professional who can prescribe it for you. You will need to consult with them either via a chat feature or by phone. If they determine your need is genuine and the medication you need is not a controlled substance, they will likely issue a prescription for you.
Online pharmacies typically ship to all 50 states. Even if you live in Alaska or Hawaii there are many legitimate online pharmacies that will ship to you. You do not have to rely solely on the local pharmacy for your medications. Be aware, however, that due to current air travel restrictions delivery by air is likely to take some time. So plan ahead.
Online pharmacies are an immense help for seniors. Seniors typically need more medications than younger folks. But at the same time, many seniors are understandably wary about venturing out during the winter when the risk of falling and breaking a bone is ever-present (4). Ordering medications through an online pharmacy ensures they get the medication they need without endangering their long-term health.
Online pharmacies are a great choice for others with mobility issues. People confined to a wheelchair or dealing with other non-age-related mobility issues will also find online pharmacies to be a big help. They do not have to worry about navigating slippery sidewalks or arranging for transportation to take them to the pharmacy. They can get what they need using a PC or smartphone, and it will be delivered right to their door.
Online pharmacies offer generic equivalents. With the cost of name brand prescription drugs so high these days, anything you can do to save a few dollars is a good thing. Most online pharmacies offer generic equivalents to brand name drugs that are every bit as potent and reliable as their more expensive counterparts (5). It is an excellent way for any budget-conscious person to get the meds they need without going broke.
Online pharmacies often accept insurance. Many of the best online pharmacies will work with major insurance plans. So if you are covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield or some other similarly well-known insurance, there is a good chance the online pharmacy will accept it. Just make sure you verify this first.
Some online pharmacies will work with Medicare. There are not a lot of them, but some online pharmacies, including Walgreens on our list, will work with your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. These select online pharmacies will also accept Medicare Advantage plans that include a prescription drug component. A win-win for many seniors.
Online pharmacies make your life easier. The bottom line with online pharmacies is that they make your life a little easier and, for those with mobility issues, safer. They let you keep your private business private, enable you to save money, save you trips to the brick and mortar pharmacy, and can even save you a trip to the doctor’s office by supplying you with a prescription.
Q: What is an online pharmacy?
A: An online pharmacy is an internet website set up to allow people to purchase the meds they need without having to leave their house. Online pharmacies may offer only prescription, or prescription and over the counter medications. They may be based in the US or another country. If they are based in another country, the owner must comply with all US laws and regulations regarding the sale and distribution of prescription drugs.
Q: Do online pharmacies sell only prescription medications?
A: Some specialize strictly in prescription medications. However, most offer a combination of common, non-narcotic prescription medications and a variety of over-the-counter medications that address everything from PMS to the flu and more. So whether you get what you want from a given online pharmacy depends on what you are looking for and which online pharmacy you use.
Q: Can I buy opioids through an online pharmacy?
A: US based online pharmacies are forbidden from selling opioids for home delivery. You may find some that will help you fill your valid opioid prescription with a local brick and mortar pharmacy, where you can pick it up in person. But you will not be able to purchase any Schedule II controlled substance (6) online from a US-based pharmacy for home delivery.
Q: Are online pharmacies legal?
A: It is legal to have an online pharmacy. But whether one passes legal muster depends on how they go about conducting their business and what type of drugs they sell. Legit online pharmacies insist on a valid prescription. If you do not have one, some will offer you the option of talking to an affiliated MD to obtain one. But no online pharmacy can mail you a controlled substance, nor can their in-house doctor prescribe a controlled substance for you. That can only be done in person (7).
Q: How do I order from an online pharmacy?
A: Each online pharmacy will have its own ordering process. Some will want to see your prescription upfront. That may involve faxing or email it to them. Others will have an online form asking about the medication you need and what you intend to use it for. Then perhaps they will request a prescription. Some will issue you a prescription after you consult with one of their in-house MDs, and then you can order the meds.
Q: Do online pharmacies offer fast delivery?
A: It largely depends on where they are located. Most of the online pharmacies profiled above are located in the US and can offer overnight delivery. But a few are located outside the US. As long as they are not selling controlled substances, they can send them to the US. Under normal circumstances, you may have to wait a week or more for delivery from one of these sites. But with covid-19 airline restrictions, you may be in for a long wait.
Q: How are medications sent from an online pharmacy?
A: The online pharmacy may use the US Postal Service, or a private shipping company such as UPS or FedEx. If the online pharmacy sources its medications from outside the US (and some do), then those meds will need to be flown to the US and then transferred to a ground-based shipper before arriving at your home. Buying from an online pharmacy outside the US will require a longer wait, especially now with covid-19 related disruptions to air travel.
Q: Will I need to pay for shipping?
A: Yes. Even the few online pharmacies that offer ‘free’ shipping factor the cost of shipping into the cost of the medication. So you are paying for it one way or another.
Q: Will I be able to track my order from the online pharmacy?
A: Reputable online pharmacies will send your meds via a well-recognized entity such as the USPS, FedEx, or UPS. They will provide you with a tracking number for your order that you can use to keep tabs on where your medication is.
Q: Do online pharmacies stock all the popular medications?
A: The best ones do, and that is one way to separate the best ones from the pretenders. You should be able to get all the most popular brand name (non-narcotic) medications from a good online pharmacy. The best online pharmacies also offer an array of low-cost generic options (8). And many offer a selection of popular over the counter allergy, headache and other medications, which can save you a trip to the store.
Q: Do online pharmacies offer real discounts?
A: Yes, many online pharmacies offer low-cost generic drugs at impressive discounts. Some source their meds in Canada where drug prices are more tightly regulated than in the US (9), and generally lower. Keep in mind though that once you factor in the shipping charge, some of your savings will disappear. The only way to really save big is to buy in bulk. But most online pharmacies limit purchases to no more than 90 days’ worth of medication.
Q: Do I need a prescription to buy medications online?
A: Yes, you will need a valid prescription to buy drugs online. In some cases, you can fax or email a scan of the prescription to the online pharmacy. In other cases, online pharmacies will ask for the prescription number and contact information for your doctor. If you do not have a prescription, some online pharmacies will put you in contact with affiliated MDs who can provide you with one. As long as the medicine you need is not a controlled substance.
Q: Will I need to open an account with an online pharmacy to purchase medications?
A: In most cases, yes. You will need to open an account and login every time you use the online pharmacy.
Q: How come I cannot buy controlled substances online?
A: According to the Postal Service, the only way controlled substances can be legally sent through the mail is if both the sender and receiver are registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or exempted from DEA registration (10). The bottom line is that online pharmacies do not want to be bothered. It is just not worth the significant legal trouble that will descend upon them if they are caught mailing controlled substances to customers.
Q: Can I talk to a real pharmacist in an online pharmacy?
A: It depends on the online pharmacy you are dealing with. Some will have licensed pharmacists available for consultation. Others will have medical doctors on call ready to answer any questions you may have. Some online pharmacies, though, use a more streamlined business model that does not include professional consultants. This allows them to offer slightly lower prices because their overhead is lower.
Q: Do online pharmacies offer preventive care like some walk-in pharmacies?
A: There is simply no way they could. Preventive medicine involves things like flu shots, vaccinations, travel immunizations wand more. All these things require a person to be in physical contact with a doctor or licensed pharmacist (11). Some pharmacies offer smoking cessation programs too. But again, you need to appear in person to take part. So, while online pharmacies can do a lot of things, they cannot offer preventive medicine.
Q: How can I identify an illegal online pharmacy?
A: There are many more rogue online pharmacies operating in the legal shadows than there are legitimate ones that obey the law. A lot of them try to fool people into thinking they are Canadian. They may even display the Canadian flag and have ‘Canada’ in the name. The easiest way to identify them is to determine if they require a prescription. Also, if they sell and ship Schedule II controlled substances, they are an illegal online pharmacy.
Q: Do online pharmacies accept credit card payments?
A: Most accept both Mastercard and VISA credit and debit cards. Some also accept money orders, bank checks, and such. And a very few (although none on our list) will accept Bitcoin. Be aware, though, that when an online pharmacy accepts Bitcoin, it is usually a sign they are trying to cover their tracks. Also, just in case you were wondering, online pharmacies will not ship medications COD.
Q: Do online pharmacies work with Medicare?
A: The overwhelming majority do not. The one notable exception on our list is Walgreens. They offer a mail-order prescription service for Medicare patients that is very convenient and easy to use once you get used to it.
Q: Why are there so few big pharmacy names on your list?
A: Most of the big chains require you to already be a customer of their brick and mortar stores before they will allow you to purchase through their website. In that sense, they are a kind of closed-loop and not a genuine, web-based, online pharmacy. The one exception we felt worth including was Walgreens since they not only fill standard prescriptions, but they can also handle prescriptions ordered through Medicare Part D (12) or Medicare Advantage (13) plans.
Q: Are all Canadian online pharmacies a scam?
A: Not at all. There are quite a few legitimate Canadian online pharmacies that have been doing business with US citizens for years. They obey all relevant laws regarding the sale and transport of prescription drugs and never involve themselves in the shady business of trafficking in controlled substances the way illegal online pharmacies do. Essentially, if a Canadian online pharmacy insists on a prescription, they are probably legit.
Q: How do online consultations work?
A: They differ from online pharmacy to online pharmacy. In some cases, you will have the opportunity to do a live chat with a doctor or pharmacist. In other cases, you will need to call and talk to someone over the phone. But most online pharmacies forego offering professional consultations since that would increase their costs.
The best online pharmacies are convenient, affordable, and reliable. They operate within the law, sell high-quality prescription drugs and OTC medications, and provide home delivery.
The most important thing when buying through an online pharmacy is making sure they are legitimate. It is crucial to avoid the myriad scam sites that populate the internet selling counterfeit drugs, or distributing controlled substances in violation of federal and state laws (14).
The online pharmacies profiled above have outstanding reputations and provide a wide range of essential medications at reasonable prices. If you need a prescription, some will have licensed doctors on call who can provide you one after a brief consultation.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended online pharmacy, click here.