Many online pharmacies claim to be licensed by a Canadian pharmacy regulatory authority when in reality they are illegal drug outlets shipping controlled drugs from a remote corner of the planet far away from Canada. A  quick internet search will turn up hundreds, if not thousands, of websites selling drugs. It may seem convenient and cheap, but purchasing drugs online may expose the patient to serious health risks. While there are some legitimate outlets online, an overwhelming number are operating illegally and may sell inappropriate or dangerous drugs.

A recent survey of more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online to consumers found that only 1 in 25 appear to comply with US laws and pharmacy practice standards. Furthermore, about one-half of medicines sold online are fake or counterfeit. So whether you are looking to buy Cialis or Viagra at an online Canadian pharmacy, the threat of purchasing a fake drug or a placebo is always present.


How to Spot a Genuine Canadian Online Pharmacy

In Canada, the licensing of pharmacies whether they have a traditional “brick and mortar” storefront only or a storefront with an online business is primarily the jurisdiction of NAPRA’s members, the provincial and territorial pharmacy regulatory authorities. Some websites will claim to be licensed by a Canadian regulatory authority when in fact they are not. There are two ways to verify the legitimacy of an online pharmacy outlet.


Verification with a Canadian Pharmacy Regulatory Authority

Look up the Canadian business address on the online pharmacy’s website (e.g. home or contact us page). There may be additional information provided such as a pharmacy license number, the College that provides the license, contact telephone number, and email address. Once you have gathered this information, you can proceed to the next step.

Go to the website of the pharmacy regulatory authority for the province or territory where the online pharmacy has established its business to confirm that the pharmacy is licensed to operate.

For example, if the online pharmacy indicates it is located at 123 Any Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, you would go to the website for the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba to confirm the pharmacy is licensed to operate.

Note: If the pharmacy is located in Quebec, check to see if the pharmacy owner is licensed by the pharmacy regulatory authority in Quebec.


Verification through the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program                                                                                               

The Pharmacy Verified Websites Program is a website verification program administered by NAPRA’s counterpart in the United States, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®), to identify safe and legitimate online pharmacies and online sources of pharmacy information.

NAPRA is a key partner with NABP® for the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program in Canada. Any Canadian pharmacy business or organization seeking to obtain a .pharmacy domain name can apply through the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program website.

As this new program grows and gains recognition by the public, it will become an increasingly valuable means of identifying safe and legitimate online pharmacies and information sources for the public.  Visit to learn more about the program, to apply for a domain name, or to find a list of current pharmacy websites.


How can you safely buy drugs online?

You can safely buy medicine online if you use online pharmacies recommended by the U.S. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. This organization verifies Internet pharmacies throughout the United States and most Canadian provinces. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has created a website at You can visit this site to find a list of which online pharmacies are recommended and which aren’t.


Don’t trust an online pharmacy if:


  • The website doesn’t ask you for a prescription.


  • The online pharmacy isn’t licensed. In Canada and the U.S., pharmacies are licensed by individual provincial or state governments.


  • The online pharmacy doesn’t have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.


  • The website isn’t “secure.” This means that any information you type in—your address, your credit card number—could be read and used by anyone who comes across it. Secure websites use special tools to “encrypt” your information. They turn it into a code that other people can’t read. You can tell that a website is secure if the URL (the Web address) begins with “https” rather than just “http.”

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