The online ordering of prescription drugs can be done from anywhere, and with virtually no paper trail, in just minutes.
That means the government can monitor your prescription and take action if there are problems.
But for patients, the ease of online ordering is also a headache.
The federal government has spent more than $1.5 billion since the 2010 law mandating online ordering was enacted to streamline the process, but there are still thousands of pages of paperwork, regulations and administrative red tape to navigate.
The National Pharmacy Dispensary Association, which represents more than 200 pharmacy chains, said it expects to spend an additional $500 million on online ordering over the next several years, which will increase its total cost to $1 billion by 2023.
The association said it hopes to increase that cost by as much as 50 percent.
The government has struggled to implement the new online ordering system, but some consumer advocates are urging the government to keep up the pace.
“The problem is, when it comes to the online ordering process, the federal government can’t seem to get it right,” said Sarah Koller, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.
“We’ve got to make sure that it’s all done right and is going to have a positive impact.”
In some cases, the government has already been caught short.
In the last two years, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Health and Human Services have failed to complete a series of orders by pharmacies that were due, the DEA said in a news release.
The FDA also said that the agency has been slow to process applications from online pharmacies.
The lack of timely online ordering has led to delays in getting prescriptions from a range of providers, including doctors and hospitals, which can cost thousands of dollars.
The problem with online ordering, said Julie Bortolotti, the executive director for policy at the American Association of Health Plans, is that it doesn’t have a consistent process for how to deliver medications to consumers.
“If you’re using an online pharmacy, there’s no way you can know what drugs are coming and when they’re coming,” Bortolli said.
“It’s a very unpredictable process.”
The FDA says it plans to update its online ordering guidelines to better ensure that online pharmacies can deliver medications as quickly as possible.
But online pharmacies have warned that they can take longer to process orders than in-person pharmacies.
For example, a doctor may be required to fill a prescription and mail it to a pharmacy three times before the pharmacy can deliver the medication, said Karen L. Leventhal, an FDA spokeswoman.
And there are other challenges to ensuring that online orders are delivered quickly, too.
For example, some online pharmacies charge for additional testing, which the FDA doesn’t always charge, and some pharmacies don’t deliver medication on time.
Some online pharmacies, like Express Scripts, are working to speed up delivery of their medications, said spokeswoman Megan M. Davis.
But the FDA has not seen any changes that would require faster delivery of medication, she said.
The online ordering model is still in its infancy, said John Gorman, a professor of pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The drug companies need to work with the pharmacy to make it easier to order drugs, he said.
But while the online system has been touted as a way to streamlines the process for patients and providers, there are significant risks for the U.S. and its pharmaceutical industry.
The price of a prescription is usually high, especially for older patients, and the drug industry has been lobbying Congress to protect Medicare from the high prices.
But even as the online prescription delivery has become a reality, the cost of drugs has continued to increase.
For a drug to be available in a pharmacy, it needs to be ordered online, and when a prescription arrives at a pharmacy it must be written down on a paper slip and handed to the pharmacy’s clerk.
The pharmacy can then order a copy of the prescription from the pharmacy or from a third party such as a health care provider.
The pharmacy can even use a pharmacy card that a patient or a physician has to write the prescription on, the FDA said.
For most people, the process takes about two minutes.
The FDA also recently announced that it will begin accepting applications for online orders from doctors who want to use the online pharmacy to provide prescription assistance.
But in order for online prescriptions to be accepted, the pharmacy has to have been approved by the agency.
The agency said it plans on working with doctors to get the new prescription processing system fully in place by March 2019.