First of all, it should be said, that buying drugs that are NOT in the controlled substances list of the Drug Enforcement Administration ( Controlled Substances ) and from a valid online pharmacy is normally legal. The question of legality comes when controlled substances are put on the table.
As I have mentioned in my previous posts, the serious regulation of online pharmacies mainly started in 2009, when The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act was passed.
A quick reminder of what the act implies:
* The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act requires internet pharmacies to display information about the businesses, pharmacists and physicians associated with the website.
* The Act prohibits the sale of prescription drugs through online pharmacies when the website refers the customer to a doctor who then prescribes medication without seeing the patient. This effectively outlaws telemedicine where scheduled medicines are involved.
* Finally, the Act provides the states with a new enforcement authority that allows the attorney general to shut down any site which violates the law.
The above basically means that any online pharmacy which sells controlled drugs without requiring a prescription, without publishing verifiable contact information is a rogue pharmacy and buying medicine from them is considered illegal.
However, while it is illegal (and there is a risk of scam as well) to buy controlled substances without a prescription, it does not necessarily mean that the customer who got caught purchasing a controlled substance would have to face penalties (which in theory can be up to $250.000 and 5 years in prison).
The Food and Drugs Administration itself have stated that they allow certain shipments if they decide they are not harmful or meant for distribution:
“FDA personnel may use their discretion to allow entry of shipments of violative FDA regulated products when the quantity and purpose are clearly for personal use, and the product does not present an unreasonable risk to the user. Even though all products that appear to be in violation of statutes administered by FDA are subject to refusal, FDA personnel may use their discretion to examine the background, risk, and purpose of the product before making a final decision. Although FDA may use discretion to allow admission of certain violative items, this should not be interpreted as a license to individuals to bring in such shipments.”
That said, the risk of legal action taken against the buyer is still there. Buying really small orders would probably be on the safer side.
For more information about legality of buying medicines online, I would like to recommend this forum thread here: Pharmacy Reviewer Legality of Ordering From Online Pharmacies FAQ, inlcuding ordering from a no prescription required online pharmacy.