How to Order Prescription Drugs Safely Online

Only 3 percent of online pharmacies are safe and legal, according to the FDA.

ByABC News
May 15, 2015, 7:23 AM

— -- Buying safe medicine online is more challenging than one may think. Only 3 percent of online pharmacies are safe and legal, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There are many tricks the shady websites use in order to lure you in and make you think they are safe by, for example, presenting themselves as legitimate Canadian companies. But Libby Baney, the director of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, says even if you see Canada in the name, beware, because you have no idea where those drugs actually originate.

“The World Health Organization has found that one in two medicines, or 50 percent, sold online are counterfeit. It’s hugely dangerous. There is boric acid, lead, highway paint in these medicines,” Baney told ABC News’ “20/20.” “And the medicines they are selling you aren’t coming from Canada.”

The most common sources of the drugs, she says, include Turkey, Russia, China and India.

Baney knows all too well how dangerous fake online medicine can be. Her sister, Ali, ordered an allergy medication online and was sick for a full year from the side effects. She now fights tirelessly to combat the wide world of illicit online medicine. She says you should be equipped with some major facts before ordering from a website.

Worried your prescription medicine could be illegitimate? Here are the main ways Baney says you can verify that what you are buying is legitimate:

1. Check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s website to see whether your pharmacy is a verified Internet practice pharmacy site.

2. Visit, and type in the website of the online pharmacy to see whether it’s approved.

3. Buy to the right of the dot: Look for the pharmacy website domain, and make sure the pharmacies you are buying from are on that domain.

She also has a tip if you find that medication is just way too expensive.

“If you are having issues with cost, go to,” Baney said. “It is a nonprofit organization run by health care professionals to help you find medicine at a lower cost.”

For more information and resources on how to safely buy prescription medication, visit the FDA’s “BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy” website HERE.