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Learning the Pros and Cons of Online Pharmacies

Learning the Pros and Cons of Online Pharmacies

Since 1994, when the first documented online purchase has taken place, online shopping has been growing and is still on the rise. In 2018 nearly two billion people worldwide have purchased goods online. The coronavirus pandemic has only increased the popularity of e-commerce by expanding the variety of products people are willing to buy online. Unlike clothing, groceries, and electronics, medicines are not top-of-the-line items for online shopping. One of the reasons is legal restrictions, which vary from country to country. However, the world is changing, new legal initiatives and solutions are coming to make life easier and improve access to medical services. In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of buying drugs online, give some practical advice, and highlight important points like legitimacy.

Legal regulations concerning online pharmacies

Each country has its distinctive laws for buying drugs online. In the US, Canada, and the EU, as well as many other countries, online pharmacies must be approved by the relevant government agency. For example, in the United States, this is done by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Moreover, there are laws specifically targeting online pharmacies. In many ways, online pharmacies operate similarly to their traditional counterparts and are subject to similar regulations. The easiest and safest way to buy your medicine online is through a pharmacy based in your country.

However, the benefits of importing drugs for personal use are attracting many people around the world. This is primarily because in other countries it is sometimes possible to purchase cheaper analogs of the required medicine. However, obtaining medicines from abroad is generally more strictly regulated. In certain European countries, it is illegal to import medicines from countries outside the European Union. Apparently, importing controlled substances, which include narcotic drugs, is strictly regulated everywhere. Regarding prescription or non-prescription drugs not included in the list of controlled substances, there are many nuances in the legislation of each country. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection may seize a package with prescription drugs and send it back to the sender if the recipient does not confirm that he or she possess a required prescription. However, such a scenario is purely hypothetical: the amount of drugs ordered from abroad exceeds the ability to inspect them, and the Drug Enforcement Administration does not target consumers unless the large quantity suggests an intent of further distribution.

As this is too broad a matter to cover in this article, anyone who orders medicines from abroad is strongly advised to check the medicine importation law in their country to ensure that the intended purchase would be considered legal.

Pros of buying drugs online

More and more users claim that online shopping is improving their shopping experience. But what about buying drugs? As for the benefits, they should be quite obvious to the average online store user. It takes time and effort to travel to the pharmacy, select, and buy drugs. During the pandemic, people are especially keen to avoid crowded places and waiting in lines, so shopping online looks even more attractive. Moreover, the necessary medicine is not always found in the first pharmacy you visit. It might be necessary to go around several places and spend much more time and effort. Search engines eliminate this problem for the most part; in any case, surfing through several online pharmacies will not cause many difficulties.

However, saving money is the most attractive part for many consumers. Prices at online pharmacies are often lower than in their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The most significant savings are possible when buying drugs from abroad — generics and cheaper analogs are sometimes available in other countries. This is especially true for the United States, where rising prescription drug prices are a known problem. According to statistics, Americans can save up to 80% by importing medicines from other countries for personal use.

Cons of using online pharmacies

An undeniable drawback of online pharmacies — at least for some people — is the inability to consult a pharmacist. Indeed, nothing can replace face-to-face communication, especially if you have known and trusted your pharmacist for a long time. Because drug instructions are often written in language that the average person might not understand, advice can come especially helpful. However, the development of the industry is gradually eliminating this disadvantage as far as the technical means allow. For example, many websites provide the opportunity to consult health professionals around the clock. Today, many countries also allow giving e-prescriptions, when the consultation takes place in the form of a video call. E-prescriptions can be uploaded to every online pharmacy that sells prescription drugs. Apparently, not all diseases can be diagnosed online without special technical means, but such services are increasingly in demand.

Another widely discussed disadvantage is the possibility to encounter an illegal pharmacy, which in the case of traditional trade is almost impossible in most countries. For the consumer, the danger lies in the possible theft of funds and personal data on the website, receiving placebo, or even potentially dangerous drugs. Even using a placebo, which has no physiological effect whatsoever, instead of the required medication can be deadly if it is used to control a serious condition. Various organizations, including international ones, are struggling to cope with the problem. Along with measures to provide lists of accredited pharmacies, advice is given to consumers on how to avoid scammers. For example, one should be alerted by excessively low prices or no physical address with a working phone number on the contact page.

Online medical services

Treatment of some diseases has become much more accessible as some medical services are gradually transferred to the Internet. First of all, there are problems that people are not inclined to share with others. Such are intimate problems, hair loss, skin problems, anxiety, etc. Taking into account that erectile dysfunction possibly affects more than 50% of men, who prefer to keep these matters to themselves, in recent years many projects have been launched for obtaining prescriptions and purchase medicine online — In those countries where such an opportunity is provided by law. This innovation has allowed many men to overcome the awkwardness of meeting a doctor face-to-face at a medical facility and buying drugs like Viagra at a local pharmacy. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, this saves time, effort, and money, helping to effectively solve problems in one`s personal life.

Although several drawbacks can be found in buying medicines online, this is a growing and developing field of e-commerce, that struggles to satisfy the customer`s needs. When turning to online pharmacies, one should be cautious and evaluate every website carefully, consulting user reviews and other sources that may help to identify rouge online stores. Moreover, when buying drugs from abroad, one should be aware that only the consumer will be responsible for the possible harm caused to his or her health. Keeping this in mind, one can find alternative sources of medicines, which are safe and acceptable.


The information contained on this page is intended for educational purposes only. Since there are materials related to healthcare and healthcare products, it is logical for it to contain names of companies and products; those are used for reference and general awareness and are owned by their respective copyright owners. Our website is not associated with any of the entities or brand names mentioned on this page. None of the information contained here is intended as direct instructions to be followed by patients; prescription medications are subject to appointment by a board-certified healthcare practitioner. Failure to follow your doctor’s recommendations may result in irreversible damage to your health. User discretion is required.