Consumer Reports

Things to Consider When Filling Prescriptions Through Online Pharmacies

NBCUniversal, Inc.

If you get your prescription drugs mailed to you, you may be relying on drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreens. But times have changed; these days the number of legitimate online pharmacies has grown, giving you plenty of low-cost options. Consumer Reports investigated a number of online pharmacies and found that the savings can be substantial if you know where to shop.

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, 3 in 10 adults who need a prescription drug said they didn't take it as directed in the past year because the cost was too high. And it's not just the uninsured who are struggling, Consumer Reports says. Many people who are insured may have high deductibles to meet before any discounts start.

A savings solution might be found online. Big-name retailers such as Amazon and Costco offer discounted drugs, as do sites like GeniusRx, Honeybee Health, and others.

To see if the savings are real, Consumer Reports went to work, comparing prices so you don't have to. In general, it found that the prices online were low.

Consumer Reports also found substantial savings if you order your medication for multiple months. For example, at Ro Pharmacy you can get a 30-day supply of generic Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering medicine, for $9.90. A year's supply? Just $19.80.

But there may be some drawbacks if you're paying out of pocket for your medication. For one, that money won't typically go toward your insurance deductible. Another drawback: You might not be able to find your exact prescription.

Several of the sites Consumer Reports checked aren't full-service pharmacies, so they might not carry insulin or brand-name drugs. They pretty much only offer low-cost generic drugs.

Another problem: They might not do as good a job as your local pharmacy in checking for dangerous drug interactions. The bottom line is that these sites might be able to help you save money. But if you take a lot of drugs or complex ones, sticking with a local pharmacy may be a better bet.

Before you try an online pharmacy, make sure the site can ship to you. Consumer Reports found that four of the sites they checked ship to all 50 states.

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