There was a time when choosing a pharmacy meant choosing from among local shops run by independent pharmacists. Today, as national chains inhabit nearly every street corner and Internet-based competitors battle it out for your prescription dollars, choosing the right pharmacy has become more important than ever. Here are some tips to help you make your decision.

Choose a Licensed Pharmacy

According to the FDA, unlicensed pharmacies have been caught shipping medications that contained such unsavory ingredients as traces of heroin or prescription medications other than the one listed on the label. Some products have even been found to contain no medication at all. Furthermore, unlicensed pharmacies have been connected to serious data breaches and even scams designed to extort money from former customers. Licenses vary between countries. For example, a licensed Canadian pharmacy gets its approval from CIPA, whereas a U.S. pharmacy is licensed by the NABP.

Look for Accreditation

A number of voluntary accreditation programs exist. Some examples are the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program, administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative (WPQC) or LegitScript. These programs help to ensure that member pharmacies follow established industry standards.

Find a Pharmacy that Takes Your Health Seriously

Pharmacists have traditionally been an important part of a person’s health care team. Pharmacists recommend over-the-counter medications, act as a liaison between you and your doctor and keep a watchful eye on potential drug interactions or allergies. Traditionally, pharmacists have been charged with the duty of explaining how you should take a new medication, what to avoid while taking it, what you should expect and what to watch out for while taking it. While it may not be obvious at first glance around a store or site whether the pharmacist is willing and able to fill these roles, if your pharmacist seems remote and disinterested after your first few prescriptions it may be time to look for a new one.

When you trust a pharmacist to fill your prescriptions, you are trusting him or her to make sure you get the medication you need to remain healthy and to protect you from potentially dangerous errors. You are also trusting your pharmacist with your personal health information. Finding a pharmacist you can trust and depend upon is well worth the effort.