Buying Prescription Medicine Online: What Are the Risks?

Buying Prescription Medicine Online

The internet is being used by people to check their health conditions and to understand it. We use it to check whenever we experience some symptoms to verify whether it is something to be worried about or not. However, there are people who are also using the internet to buy and sell medicines too. Some are using the internet to diagnose medical conditions so they can prescribe medicines that they also sell.

Any type of drugs, branded or generic, prescription or over the counter, can be easily found now online. The introduction of the internet paved the way for the introduction of online pharmacies and e-stores that dispenses medicines. Most of these online pharmacies are unregistered though and most of the prescription medicines they are selling are not licensed or counterfeit drugs. With these being said, what are the risks of buying a prescription medicine online?

Risks of Buying a Prescription Medicine Online

The National Association of Board of Pharmacy has issued some warning to people who are buying prescription medicines online. Here are their basis for issuing their warning:

  • Counterfeiting medicines has become a global business that is worth $75B, most are distributed online
  • Only 4% of online pharmacies are following state regulations and laws when it comes to selling prescription medicines and even OTC drugs
  • At least half, 43% of medicines sold online are not FDA approved
  • There are thousands of internet drugstores that you can find on the web and at least 4000 don’t have a physical address, a red flag of a fraudulent websites
  • Prescription medicines that are sold online such as drugs to treat cancer, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes are mostly counterfeit or substandard. Real medicines for these serious illnesses are expensive and are hard to procure

With these information, the NABP is warning everyone to be wary when ordering medicines online especially prescription medicines. Remember that prescription medicines are called such because they are only prescribed for a reason and should only be taken based on the said reason. Selling prescription medicines without asking for a prescription is putting a customer’s health at risk. According to Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency or MHRA, online sellers must also do their part in protecting public health, something that an illegitimate or fraudulent online pharmacy won’t mind.

Other risks of buying prescription medicine online are as follows:

  • You are prone to receiving fake medicines or counterfeit drugs. These medicines might look real but it might not contain any of the active ingredient that makes it an effective prescription medicine
  • You are prone to receiving out of date medicine. if the price is too good to be true, then it might be because those are expired medicines, tampered to make it new
  • You are prone to addiction as you can have unlimited access to a medicine that you should be taking only as prescribed. Say you are receiving a genuine medicine, you might end up taking advantage of it and using it until you get so addicted with it

At the end of the day, the risk of buying a prescription medicine online is still bigger as compared to the small amount that you are saving every time you order from your favorite e-store.

How to Protect Yourself from Risks of Ordering Drugs Online?

At least 4% of internet drugstores are legit according to studies. It means that if you will do your part and you will act responsibly, you might still end up dealing with a legit pharmacy, save a few bucks on your treatment, and have your drugs conveniently delivered to your home from time to time.

To make this happen, here are some of the things that you need to consider:

To make this happen, here are some of the things that you need to consider:

  1. Look for a reputable online pharmacy that is associated with a reputable local drugstore
  2. If you are in the US, a reputable online pharmacy means they have a CQC logo or Care Quality Commission or General Pharmaceutical Council logo for customers in the EU
  3. Check the pricing of the drugs they offer. If they offer low-priced medicines, the price must be at least 10% lower from its regular price. If you find an e-store that offers their product like a candy, then it is a red flag
  4. Check for their registration. If it is a Canadian online pharmacy, do they have a license to dispense medicines online? Are they licensed to dispense Rx medicines? Do they ask for a prescription before dispensing Rx drugs?

Another thing to check when choosing an internet drugshop is accreditation. Is it accredited by the FDA or by the WHO? For Canadian internet drugstores, are they accredited by MIPA or CIPA?


There are many reasons why people want to order their medicines online. Some are too old to drive to their local pharmacy while some protect their privacy. Most are looking for a way to save with their medicine and low-priced drugs offered by most online pharmacies are tempting.

If you are interested in ordering your prescription medicine online, make sure to deal with a legit internet pharmacy. Receiving and using a fake or counterfeit medicine is as bad as not taking any treatment at all so don’t sacrifice your health for a few bucks that you can save when ordering online. Be alert and look for red flags of illegitimate e-stores. If you cannot determine whether you are dealing with a legit online pharmacy, then it is best to go back to the traditional way of purchasing your medicine.

The internet has become a powerful tool for everyone. It is a tool to diagnose one’s self, a tool to get medications with, and a tool to take advantage of other people. Be aware when using it and always know when you are being scammed.

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