Walking down to a brick & mortar pharmacy isn’t very comfortable. Especially for those who need refills or new meds frequently. On the other hand, buying medicines online without the proper know-how to do so can prove fatal. Keeping the same in mind, we decided to enlist the 8 things to keep in mind while buying medicines online.
The ease of creating a website has resulted in a number of illegal online pharmacies popping up on the web. The hardest part about buying medicines online is verifying that a pharmacy can be trusted and is legitimate.
According to The Independent, the MHRA shut down 4760 illegal online pharmacies in 2016 alone. There sure are a number of other problems with (wrongly) buying medicines online.
Problems with Buying Medicines Online
The deadliest problem is that of fake medicines. These medicines just look like what you were actually prescribed. They do not contain the same active ingredients, or may contain wrong amounts of ingredients. Hence, often result in negative health issues.
Secondly, you never know who actually owns these online pharmacies. Simply because they have a € sign doesn’t mean they’re based in the UK, or a $ sign doesn’t place them in the U.S. The displayed information about the physical offices/stores too can’t be trusted.
According to The Times, a large number of online pharmacies in the UK are actually registered anonymously in Russia.
Moreover, self-diagnosis is a major problem. Reading an article online and going shopping based on the information is literally suicide.
The problems aren’t limited to “Health”. On an illegal pharmacy, your payment information could be carded (used illegally without your consent).
Medical Identity theft is a pretty serious and surprisingly easy crime associated with illegal online pharmacies. Your prescriptions, medical history, address, payment information etc. can either be combined together or used individually to form a fake identity, of you!
It can lead to anything from minor problems such as someone ordering drugs using your name, to you being jailed for buying illegal drugs!
This in no way means you shouldn’t buy medicines online. According to GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council), 25% of the people in a survey said they’re likely to opt for online pharmacies for future purchases!
Things to keep in mind while buying medicines online
Here are the top 8 things which ensure a safe online purchase of medicines:
1. Verify Licensing
The very first point you should keep in mind is finding a govt.-licensed/authorized logo on the online pharmacy. For those of you living in the UK, find a logo (at the footer, sidebar, “About us” or “Regulations” pages) which should look something like this on the website-
This seal is provided from the GPhC and all online as well as offline pharmacies must be registered to sell medicines in the UK.
Although anyone can put up logos and images on their site. Hence, click on the image and it should take you to the official GPhC registry. The Pharmacy if registered and legal would show you the registration number, address and other details about the Pharmacy.
(The details above are shown from a legal and licensed online pharmacy– The Independent Pharmacy, U.K.)
If the image/seal is not clickable, manually go to this link, and enter the registered number being shown with the image.
Secondly, for an online pharmacy based in the U.K, you also need to verify its MHRA certification. Alike as mentioned above, find a logo which should look something like this-
Either click on it, or go to this link. Over there, simply enter the domain name (website address/ URL) of the Pharmacy you’re verifying. The next screen would let you know if the pharmacy is legitimate or a sham.
2. Use Prescription-Requiring Pharmacies
Only purchase medicines online from those pharmacies which ask for a prescription. No licensed pharmacy would sell you medication without proper prescription for prescription-requiring medicines.
Furthermore, you never can be too sure of the dosage. Hence having a written prescription always helps get exactly what you need.
And/or try to only order from pharmacies which ask additional questions related to your requested medication. This ensures you get the right medicine.
3. Check the Physical Address
Regardless of its country, always check the address of an online pharmacy. In most cases it’s displayed on the website’s footer, or in the “About Us” page. Make sure that the pharmacy is located in your country. Purchasing from offshore online pharmacies isn’t a very good bet on life.
4. Inform Your Physician
Always inform your general physician of your online medication purchases. Let them confirm as well as verify the doses required for whatever you’re buying.
5. .pharmacy Extension
If your online pharmacy has a .pharmacy extension, it can totally be trusted. It can only be acquired by licensed and verified pharmacies and hence is a seal of trust by itself. Although note that pharmacies without the extension too are legit and the extension is optional.
6. Do Not Go for Discounts.
A major point to keep in mind while buying medicines online is that the pricing isn’t fishy. If your medication is heavily discounted, it shouldn’t be purchased. Although a slight discount is completely normal.
Because you’ll be paying online always look for a “Padlock” on the website’s address. This is for “SSL Encryption”, in simpler words your financial transactions/data is encrypted and can’t be misused.
8. Do Your Research
And finally, do not trust reviews and ratings displayed on these online pharmacies. They’re easy to fake. Rather, go for those govt. websites and verification links to verify the licenses manually.
Like everything else on the planet, buying meds online has both its Pros and Cons. Fortunately, the pros outweigh the cons in this case.
Just make sure the online pharmacy you’re using is licensed/regulated, asks for additional details or a prescription, is SSL-secured and is based in your own country.
It’s a good idea to get pharmacy suggestions from someone who has used a pharmacy earlier. Anyway, note that it’s not illegal to use an online pharmacy as long as you’re ordering legal drugs. It’s not illegal to operate one either with proper licensing.
Do let us know if you’ve got any more checklists for buying medicines online using the comments!