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How Are Canadian Pharmacies Rated?

June 14, 2021

online pharmacy safety

Computer on desk

If a person who is looking to purchase prescription drugs from an international or Canadian online pharmacy were to start searching online for information, they'd more than likely find a mixed bag.

Many results that pop up in search engines will question the legitimacy of online international pharmacies. Some of these articles even go so far as to call out the accreditation organizations charged with setting the safety standards that online pharmacies need to follow.

Meanwhile, others — often on the same search results page — will thankfully try to quell the fear mongering. But that’s not how fear works. As some say, you can’t unring the bell.

Once that seed of doubt is planted, the damage has been done. Regardless of the misleading comments fueling the lies, it’s difficult to keep the roots from growing and the tree from taking shape.

Making matters worse, some organizations quote statistics designed to caution U.S residents against ordering prescriptions from online pharmacies. Their argument is that even accredited websites dispense inaccurate (or counterfeit) medication to customers. Many of these sites have been heavily criticized for this, and rightfully so.

The truth of the matter is that there are many legitimate and trustworthy online Canadian pharmacies. These companies are highly rated by both industry watchdogs and satisfied customers who purchased and received the correct medication. Many of these customers are repeat customers, which means they trust that business on an ongoing basis.

If you’re wondering how you can tell the difference between trustworthy and fraudulent companies, don’t worry. There are ways to determine which international online pharmacies are worth your time, and we’re happy to share that information.

There are two key organizations in Canada that help assure the safety and efficacy of online pharmacies, as well as multiple customer-based and security-based organizations to help people make smart decisions.

Here are two major groups accrediting online pharmacies — and who you can trust (and who you should question).

Online Pharmacy Rating and Accrediting Organizations

Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA)

First and foremost on the list of organizations that provide necessary rating and accreditation of online pharmacies is the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA).

CIPA is a national not-for-profit organization that sets accreditation standards for international and Canadian online pharmacies. CIPA-accredited pharmacies are among those that achieve the highest ratings online for both customer and overall satisfaction, as well as accuracy.

CIPA was founded in 2002 in order to accredit and monitor international online pharmacies so that patients could feel more confident that the medication they were ordering was legitimate, and that the prescriptions they received were accurate and properly dispensed. They are widely regarded and respected for their commitment to safety, their careful vetting process, and their successful track record.

CIPA is fiercely dedicated to safety, and as such, has strict standards for certifying and licensing online pharmacies with their stamp of approval. In fact, there are only about 70 online pharmacies who earned the right to bear their seal, and NorthWestPharmacy.com is proud to be one of them.

Pro tip: you can always double-check the validity of an online international pharmacy’s CIPA status with their website’s list of safe pharmacies. It’s illegal to put the CIPA seal on a website that is not certified by that organization (and they monitor that situation, surely), but it’s always good to double check.

Minimum Requirements

CIPA has a list of minimum requirements that must be in place at any online international pharmacy before they can obtain certification. These requirements include but are not limited to:

  • The online pharmacy must require valid, verifiable, signed prescriptions, typically for 30 to 90-day supplies of drugs and health maintenance medications.
  • The online pharmacy must obtain current demographic and medical information from the patient, in addition to maintaining a health profile with medication history to avoid adverse drug interactions.
  • The online pharmacy must have a licensed pharmacist on staff for patient consultation during all hours of operation.
  • The online pharmacy does not sell controlled substances.
  • The online pharmacy must ensure patient privacy by following the similar stringent confidentiality and safety procedures as Canadian pharmacies do.

Furthermore, CIPA does not permit their certified vendors to send unsolicited email (spam) or sell addresses to third parties.

Red Flags

While CIPA-certified online pharmacies can also serve Canadian customers, they have served millions of American customers over the course of their existence. CIPA pharmacies sell prescription drugs (most often in 90-day supplies), however, they do not sell controlled substances, such as narcotics, opioids, and other drugs proven to be highly addictive.

Selling controlled substances online is a major red flag. If you’re looking for a legitimate online international pharmacy and they’re selling opioids, that’s a possible major indication that they are not accredited by any reputable agency — even if they’re claiming to be.

The reason controlled substances are controlled is exactly because of their addictive qualities. If nothing else good came from the opioid crisis, hopefully the increased awareness of the damage addictive prescription drugs can do is something we can use to move forward.

Each country has their own system for monitoring these controlled substances. There are checks in place to make sure that people on these substances are getting the pain management they need without developing a dependency (as much as possible, anyway).

If international pharmacies start selling these substances online, there may not be any way to track how much people are getting and how often they’re getting it. Again, this is a matter of safety for the patients, but it’s also a way to manage liability for the online pharmacies.

Safety and Diligence

CIPA prides itself on its perfect safety record, meaning that their pharmacies have never injured a single patient with a prescription drug dispensing error. In order to achieve this goal — and to continue to do so — they follow protocols similar to the systems established in Canadian and American mail-order pharmacies.

According to the website, "CIPA pharmacies follow the same prescription process as U.S. mail-order companies, requiring a valid and signed prescription from the patient's doctor or health care provider. And we provide the same quality controls and convenience as U.S. mail-order services, allowing consumers to maintain their health with name-brand pharmaceuticals delivered right to their home. This makes CIPA an immediate and credible part of the solution to exorbitantly high drug prices in the U.S."

In other words, filling a prescription through a CIPA-certified international pharmacy can be considered similar to filling it through a North American pharmacy — except that it's a fraction of the price. CIPA boasts that the cost difference is about 80% on average when comparing the exact same medication purchased in the U.S. versus a CIPA pharmacy.

Again, CIPA has a full list of online pharmacies they've certified on their website, but if you have a question about a specific website, you can use their verification tool. They also have some information on how to properly identify a CIPA-certified online pharmacy, giving specific things to look for.

  1. Online pharmacies that are verified by CIPA will display the red seal, and you can double check this against the list on their website at any time.
  2. If there is a certificate signed by Steven D. Levitt or Jared Caughey on the website in question, it's likely fraudulent. Do not trust the site.

And of course, if you believe you've encountered a fraudulent online pharmacy, or you believe the pharmacy is trying to claim to be CIPA-certified, but the seal looks incorrect, they encourage you to report them to CIPA. They keep a list here so you can check if a website has already been reported.

International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPABC)

The International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPABC) is another organization that certifies online Canadian pharmacies. Like CIPA-certified companies, many of these online pharmacies attain the highest ratings online though none higher than NorthWestPharmacy.com.

Created in 2003, the IPABC specifically "represent[s] the interests of licensed international mail order pharmacies that dispense Health Canada-approved medications from Canada via valid prescriptions."

IPABC-certified pharmacies follow the same protocols for safety and security as CIPA — and in fact, all of their pharmacies must be CIPA-certified as well. They will not have an online pharmacy for certification if they do not maintain CIPA standards.

In order to have a prescription filled through an IPABC-certified pharmacy, multiple items must be verified:

  • The patient must have a valid prescription written by a doctor (either in the U.S. or in Canada).
  • The patient must be able to confirm their demographic and medical information.
  • A licensed pharmacist on staff must supervise dispensing of medications and be available for patient consultation.
  • All staff members must be properly trained in written procedures to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality.

Like CIPA, the IPABC boasts a perfect safety record with their certified online pharmacies. They also provide prescriptions in most categories, so long as they are not controlled substances, and most often in 90-day supplies.

However, the main difference between the CIPA and the IPABC is that the IPABC is primarily focused on pharmacies (both online and brick-and-mortar) operating in the province of British Columbia, Canada.

For a full list of IPABC-certified pharmacy websites (which we’re proud to say includes NorthWestPharmacy.com), you can click here.

Board meeting

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is an organization that claims their mission is to ensure the safety of pharmaceutical sales.

Similar to CIPA accreditation, the NABP has a program called Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) that includes pharmacies that meet certain criteria. If they meet set standards, they receive a special seal to put on their website. In this case the pharmacy seeking approval must meet the following criteria:

  • Be located in the U.S.A.
  • Have a physical address (again, in the U.S.A.)
  • Only dispense FDA-approved medication
  • Require a valid prescription signed by a doctor
  • Purchase a [dot]pharmacy domain name prior to applying for a VIPPS certification.

The NABP claims that the overwhelming majority of online pharmacies they've reviewed don't comply with U.S. pharmacy laws and safety standards. But the NABP has been criticized for its ardent opposition to any kind of lower cost drug importation that could harm the profits of the chain drug stores that support the NABP. It opposes almost every (if not every) website which assists consumers to import their medicines at a cost savings and places them on a blacklist called their "not recommended list."

As such, they're frequently critical of international and Canadian pharmacies — even to the point of recommending that Americans never purchase medication from online pharmacies outside the USA.

Some could even argue that NABP is so opposed to Americans purchasing more affordable medications through online international pharmacies, it seems as if they have an incentive to do so. That’s not surprising since they appear to be a Big Pharma special interest group.

Obviously, watchdogs like this need to exist. Consumers need to know that they’re protected. But vilifying organizations outside their jurisdiction that provide quality products at a cheaper price isn’t always helpful and starts to make their motives questionable.

Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP)

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit that says it is dedicated to protecting consumers from unsafe medications from illegal online retailers. On the surface, this seems relatively innocuous and garners trust.

Looking deeper, it essentially promotes the NABP and all its recommendations for choosing a safe online pharmacy, including using only ones that use a [dot]pharmacy domain name — or that have brick-and-mortar locations in the United States.

This news shouldn't be surprising considering that the ASOP is funded by large drug companies and U.S. chain drug stores. We’ll let you decide whether these groups oppose the importation of lower cost prescription drugs because it cuts into the (massive) profits of their supporters.

Of course, ASOP would say that safety is their primary concern, which is a legitimate concern in the digital age. And again, if this were the entire purpose of their organization with no other motivation, we think they’d be more trustworthy. It’s just that it looks like ASOP could have other motivations in play.

While it's obviously important to make sure pharmacies are being safe and accurate, it simply isn't true that international pharmacies can't (or won't) provide customers with medication as safely as an American pharmacy. There are certainly ways to check the legitimacy of an online pharmacy — and as a consumer, you should look into this — but there's no reason to believe a certified Canadian pharmacy or international one won't give you the correct medication.

As if the hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers who have written online reviews could attest to, independent research confirms that certified online international pharmacies are safe and reliable.

Security

Security Rating Organizations

Trust Guard

Trust Guard is an organization that helps consumers determine how trustworthy (hence, the name) and legitimate a website is so they can decide whether or not to shop there. By performing identification checks, Trust Guard makes sure a business has a confirmed mailing address, a customer service email address, and a functional phone number.

Of course, the thought process behind this business model is that a legitimate business will have all of these attributes. Intentionally nefarious online international pharmacies sometimes don’t want a way for you to contact them. (Note that having contact methods are not by themselves proof of legitimacy for online pharmacies though.)

Assuming a business can confirm all three methods of communication are active and there are no other red flags, Trust Guard provides a seal the business can place on their website to indicate to customers that they are a safe place to buy from, regardless of industry.

We're happy to say that NorthWestPharmacy.com is one of a small number of international and Canadian pharmacies online who've earned this seal. Services like Trust Guard help provide peace of mind for consumers shopping online and we’re grateful for this distinction.

Norton Shopping Guarantee

The Norton Shopping Guarantee is provided for free to customers (such as those who shop at NorthWestPharmacy.com) who choose to take advantage of it. There are three different levels offering varying degrees of protection:

  • $100 Lowest Price Guarantee - If the price of your item decreases within 30 days of your purchase, Norton will pay you the difference up to $100.
  • $1,000 Purchase Guarantee - If you're unsatisfied with your purchase, Norton will work with the business in question to resolve the issue. If they find the business was at fault, they'll refund your purchase up to $1,000.
  • $10,000 Identity Theft Protection - If your identity is stolen, Norton can help you find necessary services to restore your identity and will provide up to $10,000 to help pay for expenses incurred during the process.

The Norton Shopping Guarantee is a good way to assure customers that their purchase is being fulfilled by a legitimate business that will stand behind its transactions. Given Norton’s steadfast reputation, shopping with NorthWestPharmacy.com comes with a guarantee from one of the biggest names in internet security.

From a business standpoint, it's a great way to prove to our customers that we care about their satisfaction and security. From a customer service standpoint, we hope it conveys that we are a trustworthy source for your medication.

Customer Rating Organizations

Shopper Approved

Shopper Approved is a third-party reviews website designed to help consumers make informed decisions about a business or a particular product. For example, NorthWestPharmacy.com has over 400,000 reviews written through Shopper Approved who have ordered prescription drugs through our website.

We're very proud of the fact that our reviews are overwhelmingly positive — the vast majority of our reviews are a full five stars, with an overall rating of 4.8/5 stars.

NorthWestPharmacy.com is the most reviewed and independently five-star rated online pharmacy in the world. Not only do we have more reviews than any pharmacy accredited through the NABP VIPPS program, you can compare our online pharmacy reviews with theirs to see that we have significantly more positive reviews than any of them.

Trust Pilot

Trust Pilot is another third-party website, but this one focuses on rating only companies, rather than products and companies.

You can read reviews by verified buyers who give ratings between one and five stars — five being "Excellent." Again, we're proud to report that we have an Excellent rating through this website with thousands of reviews. Again, compare our reviews to other online pharmacies here to see the difference.

At the time of writing this, NorthWestPharmacy.com is rated higher on Trust Pilot than every NABP VIPPS program accredited U.S. pharmacy.

Customer Service

The final (but significant) consideration when searching for a reputable online pharmacy internationally and locally is their customer service options.

It’s easy to create a “contact us” page on a website — just a simple form people can fill out where they give their own contact information and a brief explanation of their conundrum. But that isn’t customer service. That’s just a formality.

One of the most important factors of trust between any business and its customers is the level of service they provide. To this end, look at the customer service or “help” tab on the website. What kind of information is listed? How can you get a hold of this online pharmacy?

Most businesses will provide some kind of email address that you can contact if you need assistance. Some will have the “contact us” form.

This is not to say that “contact us” forms are bad (they’re not) — it’s just a matter of the online pharmacy following through on that contact form.

But the most reliable method of customer service is a classic one: the phone.

Does the online Canadian pharmacy or international one you’re looking into have an actual phone number that connects you to a real human? Do you have to wait forever on hold? Do they have unhelpful staff answering the call after that hold time?

Some businesses use automated systems that require you to put in information and it will try to solve your problem without involving a person. More often than not, this process is frustrating and results in the caller being annoyed. If the experience is bad enough, they may just move on to a different online pharmacy.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we’re dedicated to customer satisfaction, and an integral part of that dedication is maintaining a consistent team of customer service members. When you call us, a real person answers the phone and will be able to answer any of your questions.

They can help you figure out what documentation you need, what payment methods we accept, and even walk you through the ordering process.

We fully recognize that some people are just more likely to trust a company that they can call. And in a technological world where so many businesses are doing away with call centers, we find that our customers are grateful to be able to call and speak to a human. It’s faster in many cases, and also more efficient.

Finding a Trustworthy Canadian Online Pharmacy

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you're trying to find a reliable and safe online pharmacy where you can buy more affordable medication. The conflicting information available on the search engine results pages can make this seem like an arduous process, full of confusion and frustration.

It's important to look at all of the professional review and ratings organizations and security status, as well how previous customers have enjoyed their experiences. Knowing that a professional Canada pharmacy or international drugstore has certified the website, that they have a safe track record, and that previous customers have received the correct medication along with great service can put your mind at ease.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we're very proud of our perfect safety record and our positive customer satisfaction ratings. It's our goal to deliver the high-quality medication your doctor prescribed at a fraction of the cost you'd incur at a local pharmacy. As you can read in the reviews, we're a trustworthy, safe, and affordable alternative that will help you get the health care you need.

For your convenience, we have a wealth of information available on our website, including articles that dive into specific topics and medications, drug authenticity information, easy-to-follow instructions for ordering medication, and even helpful health and wellness information from our healthcare ambassador Dr. Brynna Connor, MD. We even have a highly acclaimed digital heath magazine that you can subscribe to for free.

Go ahead and check things out on our website, but if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We'd be happy to help you find medication that you need, look up information you can’t seem to find, or even walk you through the ordering process.

You can call our dedicated call center seven days a week at 1-866-539-5330. If you’d prefer to email us, you can do so anytime. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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