My plan has an option for filling my prescriptions through the mail. It seems convenient but is it safe?

February 14, 2017

Filling prescriptions through the mail is becoming more common in Canada and is likely going to grow due to its convenience. Most type of drugs, including specialty drugs, can be dispensed through mail order – with the exception of narcotics and controlled substances. I understand your concerns about safety, but there’s no need to worry about ordering medications from the pharmacy your plan recommends. Here’s why…

In Canada, mail-order pharmacies must be accredited by the regulatory colleges where they operate and have to follow the same requirements as your familiar “bricks and mortar” community pharmacy. Mail-order pharmacies are staffed by licensed pharmacists who have to adhere to the same standards of practice and code of ethics as all other pharmacists in the province. And the drugs they dispense – both brand name and generic – are purchased through the same channels as the pharmacy in your community.

Once your prescription is received by the mail-order pharmacy, a pharmacist will review it – assessing it for accuracy and safety before dispensing. If you’re just starting a new medication, the pharmacist will call you to discuss it. They will check for drug interactions and will contact your doctor to discuss alternatives where a problem is identified. And if you want to speak to a pharmacist, one should be available to provide you counseling and answer your questions over the phone – just like at your community pharmacy.

Mail-order pharmacies ship your medications in discreet, unmarked, tamper-resistant packages so that no one knows it contains drugs. Medication that needs to be kept within a specific temperature range will be sent in appropriate packaging. For example, refrigerated drugs are packaged in specialty containers that are guaranteed to stay cold during the shipping process. However, most drugs that come as tablets or capsules don’t need such special temperature-controlled packaging.

Your drugs are sent to you by courier or registered mail, and typically you’ll be notified so you know when to expect your package. You may even be able to schedule a delivery time to accommodate your availability to receive the package. Depending on what province you live in, you may have to sign a receipt upon delivery of the package. Most mail-order pharmacies offer next-day or two-day delivery but in cases where you need your medication sooner that than – like in the case of an antibiotic to treat an acute infection, you should probably get your prescription filled by your local pharmacy.

So as you can see, a mail-order pharmacy provides you with the same safe, high-quality drugs and pharmacy services that you should expect from any Canadian pharmacy.