Nothing stops pharmaceutical giants from charging astronomical prices for their products. People will buy – they have no choice. However, with the appearance of Internet drugstores, things have changed. Now we can buy drugs much cheaper and even order delivery to the doorstep. It’s way more convenient and cost-efficient.

A lot of people started using the Internet to purchase over-the-counter or prescription medications – that saves boatloads of money. The most popular online drugs are Viagra, Cialis, Phentermine, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Prozac, Propecia, Accutane, Lexapro, Valium, Ambien, and others.

But what about safety? Are cheap online drugs harmless? Let’s reveal the truth about products sold in the Net.

Main concerns of online buyers

Even if we understand how serious our health issues are, we may still want to save money on expensive drugs and take risks. Which threats do we face buying medications online?

Many online pharmacies are unregistered, which means buying medications from them is potentially unsafe. You do not know who the providers are and whether the pharmacy stores medications in proper conditions. No one is held responsible for the quality of drugs you buy.

So-called telemedicine is gaining traction. Instead of paying hundreds of bucks on a visit to a therapist, you can get a prescription online. In most cases, online doctors approve of purchase – not because of empathy – because it’s profitable for online drugstores. They care about their financial interests, not yours.

Most often, telemedicine doctors prescribe:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-fungus balms
  • Allergy pills
  • High blood pressure drugs
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Decongestant nasal sprays
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs

Please, note that decent telemedicine doctors won’t prescribe drugs when the patient examination is required. For instance, they are NOT supposed to prescribe sleep aids and erectile dysfunction remedies.

What’s wrong with drugs I buy online?

There’s the whole gamut of threats and dangers you face when ordering drugs online.

Those include:

  1. Medications can appear to be outdated. Yes, that makes them cheaper, but it means they can be so old the components have lost their effectiveness. Would you risk your health and life? The best thing that happens is the absence of therapeutic effect. The worst – such products can be dangerous.
  2. Do you buy liquid drugs? They can be diluted – you won’t even notice the medication is watered down. Sometimes customers order 40 mg tablets and receive 20 mg pills instead: there isn’t a single word on the label that the dosage is incorrect. You will reveal the trick only when you take the drug and find out it doesn’t produce the expected effect because you take a smaller portion.
  3. Drugs inside can be mislabeled, or there’s a wrong medication inside. For instance, you order a brand expensive drug and get a placebo, or a cheap alternative instead. It can look like exactly what you’ve ordered. Some pharmacies don’t even bother with that: they send you another medication claiming it has identical purposes and they have just saved you money. “Be grateful, we’ve done it from the best of motives!”
  4. The risk of getting a counterfeit medication is very high. The sad truth is that counterfeit drugs are now flowing into American drugstores. They are being delivered to people regularly, even in local registered pharmacies.
  5. Drugs might have been stored incorrectly. Some medications should be kept in a fridge, some – in a dry dark place. If medications aren’t stored properly, they can at least lose their quality and effectiveness. Besides, some of them can become dangerous.

As you see, there are many risks and threats connected with the online purchase of cheap drugs. But it’s not all.

It’s not only about medications…

Further problems can appear when you try to contact the pharmacy and get your money back. Since the vast majority of online drugstores run illegally, they bear no legal responsibility for their actions. If you get lucky and hire an expensive lawyer, probably, you will be able to get your money back. But imagine how much time and effort it will cost you!

Another risk is connected with your personal data. Online drugstores can share credit card numbers and codes with someone who will hijack them for something else. If your credit card gets stolen, it means your identity is stolen. Anyone else can use your personal information, which may lead to dramatic outcomes.

As far as no exact pharmacists are involved in the process of the transaction and since you can purchase prescription drugs and other medicines on other places, you won’t have a chance to resolve conflicts over drugs. Even if you have received the right drug, you won’t be able to prove whether it conflicted with other products you have taken before.

Fraudulent organizations will be happy to steal your personal info and use it in their malicious purposes.

“So, do I need a prescription?”

if you deal with a reliable online drugstore, most likely, you will need it. To sell prescription-only medicines, an online drugstore is ought to receive a legally valid prescription before distributing the medication. Therefore, you’ll either need a paper prescription or an electronic prescription obtained via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) from your GP or another authorized (!) healthcare professional.

You can submit the prescription yourself if you want, but an email prescription isn’t enough. Once you sell the scan of printed prescription or fax it, the medication can be dispensed and sent to you.

As we have already mentioned, some websites offer prescribing services: you have an online consultation with a doctor to get a prescription. Online consultations are legal, but the British Medical Association (BMA) and the General Medical Council (GMC) oppose such practice and can make such pharmacies legally responsible for failing to make adequate diagnoses over the internet.

It may be hard to distinguish between registered online drugstores and usual commercial websites. The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) operates an internet pharmacy logo scheme to identify legitimate online pharmacies so you can ensure you’ll be buying safe and genuine medications online.

How to protect yourself against unreliable sellers?

Problems start from the moment you self-diagnose your condition and then obtain prescription online from an unknown person. Then you get a cheap medication online and risk losing your health.

Still, want to purchase online? Here’s what you should mind:

  • Always order medications from a reputable store. Make sure that the online pharmacy is officially registered and authorized to sell drugs. Additionally, you can ask to show you quality certificates of the medications you’re going to buy.
  • It’s a bad idea to order medication without the official prescription. The product can appear to be harmful to you, and you risk experiencing bad side effects on your health.
  • Do not regard medications as regular consumer products. Outdated, counterfeit and spoilt products can do very serious harm to your health! The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has a register of authorized online sellers of medicines, so check out if a website is legally allowed to sell medicines to the public.
  • Don’t open spam emails that advertise cheap medications. If an offer is too good to be true, there is usually some trick.
  • Check for the Internet privacy logo when you visit an online pharmacy (HTTPS instead of HTTP in the URL means your payment data is encrypted and protected against hackers).
  • Check out the registration status of a pharmacy, whether it has a real physical address, and is connected to a “bricks and mortar” pharmacy.

Cheap medication bought disreputable websites can be poor quality at best and simply dangerous at worst. What you receive in the parcel might be counterfeit, substandard or unapproved new medication, which puts your safety at risk. Always check the online drugstores prior to making a purchase, and take care to get an official prescription from your doctor. Your health is of higher priority than saving a few bucks!