It wasn’t too long ago that visiting a pharmacy meant getting your duff off the couch and out the door for some face time with a licensed professional. Like much else these days, the game has changed. Online innovators like “Pill Pack” have allowed individuals with prescriptions in need of filling to do so entirely from the comfort of their home. Doses are pre-sorted and labeled by date and time. Some platforms even allow patients to consult with a medical provider remotely for things like prescription refills.

Illegal Online Pharmacies On the Rise

These innovations undoubtedly prove a blessing for the countless people who rely on prescription drugs to engage in certain life functions or even just to exist. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before unscrupulous actors got in on the game.

In recent years, the number of illegal online pharmacies has proliferated – and not just on the dark web. Many, but not all, of these outfits are based overseas in jurisdictions where local law enforcement is ill-equipped, under-funded, and insufficiently trained to investigate cyber-crimes. In other jurisdictions, underground pharmacies operate decidedly above-ground; corrupt government officials are paid to look the other way or the government itself is involved in drug trafficking.

Red Flags for the CLearance Holder to Watch

No matter the location of the “pharmacy”, most display fairly obvious red flags on their websites that should send clearance-holders running for the hills: poor English spelling and grammar; payment that is only accepted by virtual currency; rudimentary website substance and functionality; and cut-rate or “volume discount” pricing, to name a few. Many do sell stolen or generic versions of the real medications advertised, but trusting that will always be the case is literally trusting the word of a drug dealer. Do you really want to put an unknown substance, of unknown origin, peddled by criminals for profit, into your body?

Of course, all of this assumes that the clearance-holder is operating in good faith and seeking to obtain a medication for which he or she has a valid, lawful prescription. If not, the fact that a controlled substance is legal or doesn’t require a prescription overseas is irrelevant in the U.S. If you’re not starting your search for an online pharmacy with a valid, U.S. prescription, good luck convincing law enforcement that you believed your purchase was legit.

Verify All Online Pharmacies

If you’re thinking, “yeah, but millions of packages go through the mail – who’s going to catch me?”, all I can say is “famous last words.” You may not get caught the first time or even the tenth time, but eventually U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the Postal Inspection Service will catch up with you. And when they do, either one of two things is going to happen: arrest and prosecution; or, if you’re exceedingly lucky like one of our recent clients, a letter from federal authorities explaining that your purchase was intercepted and destroyed with a stern warning not to try it again. Either way, you can bet that your agency’s security officials aren’t going to be happy about the affair.

You may have to pay more in the short run, but if you want the convenience of having medications delivered and not potentially losing your job (or your life) as a result, investing a small amount of time and effort to verify your potential online pharmacy’s bona fides up-front is a wise idea.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit