With everything being available online it was only a matter of time before drugs were added to the list of the electronic commerce products and people started ordering their medicines online. The concept of online pharmacies and online sale of medicines has been in vogue worldwide for more than two decades now and the United Kingdom has been at the forefront in that regard. Online pharmacy, cyber pharmacy, ePharmacy or mail-orders pharmacy is simply the one that is run over the internet, selling treatments and deliver them to clients through the post. It offers a variety of products from beauty products, over-the-counter medications (that do not need a prescription) and prescription medications (which necessitate a prescription issued by an accredited doctor). Comparing the distance-selling (online) pharmacies with the traditional (offline) ones is discussed through a number of perspectives next.
Ease and Convenience
These are huge advantages that online pharmacies brought. Your medication can be submitted at any time, there is no need to rush to the pharmacy during business hours and you don’t have to wait in any long lines. All of that would save time and effort which of special importance for people in distant areas where no pharmaceutical services are there and for those struggling to reach pharmacies because of any logical reason. Advantages that cannot be considered with traditional pharmacies.
It is an additional advantage that online pharmacies offer. As sometimes going to the doctor or talking to the pharmacist in the drugstore can be an undesired option for the complaint you need to get treatment for, either because it is very personal, or you get embarrassed to address your concerns about. Well, it is vital to mention that you should never feel ashamed to go to the doctor’s, but it’s difficult to avoid feeling nervous about sharing personal details with someone else. Online pharmacies let you address more personal worries like erectile dysfunction, hair loss and with anonymity and privacy, which can make people more likely to talk about their issues. Don’t worry, your medication will be delivered in a very professional way in a non-branded package. You don’t have to feel any discomfort as well.
It is one of the money saving tips from experts to try getting cheaper medicines without compromising their quality. In fact, a primary benefit that people cite for using an online pharmacy in comparison to the offline ones is the price. Typically, the prices for medications from an online pharmacy are less and payment options are flexible through most online pharmacies. Some pharmacies provide a price match guarantee to help their customers save even more. Therefore, starting now, set your plans accordingly and save some money.
Expanded Consultation services
When online pharmacies first started to appear online, one of the main concerns people had about them was that they weren’t sure whether the advice they were getting was actually coming from experts. Now, however, more and more people are realising that fully regulated and registered online pharmacies are a valuable addition to the healthcare system. Moreover, there are additional services presented:
- Easy access to additional medical information — A particular benefit of many online pharmacies is the inclusion of useful health information on the site itself. Information regarding the medicines themselves, potentially harmful interactions, and links to other resources are often provided on the pharmaceutical sites.
- Ability to purchase without prescription — As a positive thing, this allows an individual to obtain medicines without the expensive and often times embarrassing visit to a doctor as illustrated earlier.
However, and unlike the case with offline pharmacies, ability to get prescription-only medicines without a prescription removes a layer of protection provided by consultation with and diagnosis by a trained medical professional. Self-diagnosis is more often faulty and potentially dangerous drug reactions and interactions with medications currently being taken may not be fully considered in such a situation. Furthermore, the purchase of controlled substances without an appropriate prescription may involve serious legal risks as well.
Nevertheless, all of that wouldn’t be a worry if the online pharmacy was a registered one. Hold on, we would not mention that without giving you more information, just check the next section.
All online pharmacies in Great Britain need to be registered in the same way as a regular pharmacy, with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and meet the standards for registered pharmacies.
According to the provisions of Section 10 Medicines Act 19686, medicines can only be prepared, assembled, labelled and supplied for individual patients against prescriptions at a registered pharmacy under the supervision of a pharmacist. This same law applies whether you are accessing pharmacy services in a ‘traditional’ way, at a distance or on the internet. It also includes that the medicines supplied have the marketing authorisation needed.
So, from a regulatory perspective, the same applies to both bricks mortar and pestle pharmacies and distance-selling pharmacies (offline and online pharmacies, respectively). However, the latter need additional checks, we listed them for you below:
- Locate the name and address of the pharmacy operating the website.
- Check the pharmacist and pharmacy are registered.
- Check if the prescribing doctor is also registered.
- Avoid websites which offer to supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription.
- Be aware that registered pharmacies are required to check that a medicine is suitable for a patient before selling it.
- You should be asked to provide information about your health before purchase.
Last word on Online Vs Offline Pharmacies
Online pharmacies offer better pricing than offline stores, with increased access, lower transaction and product costs, convenience and greater anonymity for consumers. They offer accessibility to people with limited mobility and people in remote areas. These provide doorstep delivery within a short time, and validation of prescription through licensed pharmacists.
- Desai C. Online pharmacies: A boon or bane? Indian journal of pharmacology 2016;48:615.
- Henney J. Online Pharmacies–Maintaining the Safety Net. Medscape Pharmacists 2000;1:2000.
- George C. Online healthcare: Internet pharmacies may not always be good for your health. The Information Society: Emerging Landscapes. Springer, 2006:133-51.
- Controversies and legal issues of prescribing and dispensing medications using the Internet 2004. Elsevier.
- Section 10 Medicines Act 1968