Virtual Pharmacy

With Americans spending $230 billion a year on prescription drugs and other health care items, it’s no surprise someone’s come up with a faster way to help them do it.

Pharmacist Scott fills prescriptions the old-fashioned way — face to face with his customers. Pharmacist Doug also fills prescriptions, but he does it over the Internet — even for customers in other states. Doug is part of one of several new Internet pharmacies on-line.

Internet pharmacists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via phone, via e-mail.

Besides filling prescriptions, the new on-line pharmacies offer hundreds of other health care and beauty products. Doug has started using the Internet to fill some of his prescriptions.

To verify prescriptions, reputable on-line pharmacists call the patient’s doctor for each new order and check with insurance companies about coverage. Consumers should be wary of online services offering to prescribe drugs.

They are pharmacists and not physicians. This is literally just like a retail drugstore that happens to use the Internet as their main source of distribution and communication.

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, several unlicensed sites on the Internet do offer prescriptions, make a profit and close up shop.

So protect yourself — the good ones don’t prescribe drugs, they only fill what your doctor has ordered.

Real drugstore chains including Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid and Drug Emporium also let customers order refills on the Internet. They’re also considering filling new prescriptions.

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