Laws about purchasing prescription drugs online differ by whether the website is of a legitimate U.S.-based company, a business conducting fraudulent or illegal sales, or a foreign organization, explains About.com. Online purchasing of prescription drugs is legal if the buyer and the online pharmacy both meet certain requirements, which include having a valid prescription.
Under federal law, purchasing a controlled substance requires a valid prescription, reports the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. A valid prescription requires a doctor-patient relationship, which, in most states, must include a physical examination. Websites that use "cyber doctors" to prescribe medication after reviewing a questionnaire completed by the purchaser are not operating legally. Buying narcotic pain relievers, sedatives, stimulants, anabolic steroids or other controlled substances online without a valid prescription is punishable by imprisonment, and the drugs may be fake or adulterated.
Importing drugs into the United States that are not delivered to a DEA registrant is a felony, notes the U.S. DEA. Federal law prohibits personal importation of a drug into the United States, whether in person or through the mail, claims About.com. In practice, though, enforcement efforts focus on commercial users rather than on individuals who import drugs for their personal use, explains the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.