How to safely buy prescription meds online.

We live in an age where technology can take over so many aspects of our daily lives.  The days when your doctor gave you a prescription and you went along to the local pharmacy to get the medications are on their way out.

We can now compare prices of the meds we need online, buy them and have them shipped to us.  But how safe is it to do this?  How do you know what you’re getting? That’s what we’ll look at in this article.

How do I know that the drugs from my local pharmacy are better than buying online?

doctor and senior womanWhen you get your prescription meds from the pharmacy, you can trust that they are drugs from a proper and reputable source.  That means the drugs will:

  • Be in date – not passed their use-by date.
  • Have been stored correctly – many drugs are sensitive to temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions.  Drugs become useless or unsafe to use if they are not stored correctly.
  • Contain the correct ingredients.
  • Contain the right doses of these ingredients.
  • Have the right information leaflet in the right language.
  • Be dispensed as your doctor wants them – ie at the right dose for you and with the right directions for you.

Why buy drugs online?

There are 2 main reasons for getting prescription meds online:

  1. One is that they can be less expensive than from a pharmacy.
  2. The other is that you don’t have a prescription for them and therefore can’t get them from a pharmacy.

In the case of the second reason, if your doctor hasn’t prescribed a drug that you can’t buy over the counter, then don’t try to get it or take it.

carpel tunnel syndromeThis is because the medicine safety bodies – the FDA (in the US) or MHRA (in the UK) – know that the drug is not suitable for the general public without a medical professional’s guidance.  They say this because:

  • The drug may interact with other meds you’re taking
  • You may not have the correct diagnosis and therefore be looking for the wrong drug
  • You may have another condition that the drug you’re looking for will worsen.  This has been a common mistake for men buying Viagra online if they have heart conditions and/or are taking heart meds.  This can has been fatal for some.
  • The information leaflet may not be accurate or in a language you understand.
  • The site you’re buying from may not respect your privacy and sell your personal information to other people without your consent.

If you are trying to budget then there are simple guidelines from the FDA and MHRA for buying safely online.

How to buy drugs safely online.

  1. Meet and talk to your doctor about your condition and the drugs you need.  For example,sometimes one drug is prescribed to lessen the side effects of another.  Is there a drug with fewer side effects that you could take, even if it’s more expensive?  Does your doctor have any advice about buying drugs safely online?
  2. If you are looking for a drug that hasn’t been prescribed, see your doctor to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.  The wrong drug that harms you will be more expensive in the long run than a doctor’s visit and the right meds.
  3. In the US, make sure any website you visit is a state-licensed pharmacy that is located in the US.   The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has a program to help Working togetheryou find pharmacies that are licensed to sell pharmaceuticals online. See
  4. Look out for security policies on the website.  They should be easy to find and easy to read.
  5. Don’t give out any of your personal details other than your name and delivery address – not social security number, medical or health information. And make sure the site won’t sell your information.
  6. A reputable site should have a pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  7. A reputable site will need your prescription to dispense the medications.
  8. You should also be able to find the name of the business (site) owner, the address of the pharmacy where the drugs come from, the name of the head pharmacist and details of the pharmacy’s and pharmacist’s registration status.  These are the UK General Pharmaceutical Council’s code of ethics for online sales.

What are the dangers of buying drugs online?

When paying for drugs, consider that drug companies spend many years and many millions in researching and developing drugs to treat diseases.  Many of the chemicals that might eventually become drugs turn out to be unsafe so they can’t be marketed.  That means that a company has put a lot of money into a drug that can never be sold.

Expensive drugs are expensive because drug companies need to make that money back so they can continue with that vital research and development.

The one question to ask yourself if drugs are cheap, are they cheap for a reason?

Consider that:

  • The danger of buying drugs online is that a website is that it may not be what it appears to be.  And the drugs may not be either.  Drugs bought from sites that don’t meet the criteria we’ve mentioned above may:
  • Be fake – you’re paying for something that doesn’t work or may actually harm you
  • Contain ingredients such as coal dust, brick dust, arsenic (a poison) or other poisons, talcum powder.
  • Be the wrong dose – too strong or too weak to control/treat your condition.

Elspeth Raisbeck