Almost every type of business is transferring at least a portion of activities to the digital world, so it’s natural to see so many pharmacies going online as well. Online purchases can save you a fair share of money and hassle because you don’t need to visit a physical store, which is particularly important in the age of COVID-19.
But there is one question that seems to bother patients who buy medications on the Internet: Is this online pharmacy safe?
The issue is extremely important because regulatory agencies estimate that over 95% of online pharmacies are actually illegal. According to the report, there are approximately 40 thousand illegal online pharmacies, with 600 new ones being launched every month. It shouldn’t surprise you given the fact that the global online pharmacy market size is projected to reach almost $130 billion by 2023.
How can you recognize a legal online pharmacy among so many illegal websites? Keep reading as we have prepared for you a list of seven proven ways to detect a safe online pharmacy.
Why Do You Need to Be Careful When Choosing an Online Pharmacy?
We already warned you about the number of fake online pharmacies, but you should also learn the consequences of buying from unreliable remedy e-shops. If you act carelessly and bump into an illegal online pharmacy, you could end up facing a serious problem. This is why you need to be careful when choosing an online pharmacy:
- Buying placebo: A lot of illegal online pharmacies will simply send you a placebo. That way, they minimize operating costs and leave you believing that the medication you’re taking is working as usual. Needless to say, it could have major health implications both short and long-term.
- Receiving a harmful medication: The worst thing that can happen is to get a medication that is harmful or even life-threatening. It’s not unusual with illegal online pharmacies because they don’t employ licensed pharmacists and don’t follow the official regulations.
- Getting the wrong medication: Sometimes a problem occurs simply because online pharmacies don’t behave seriously and mix medications.
- Purchasing drugs that are not approved: They could also be selling unapproved drugs that are still not clinically tested and/or researched.
- Jeopardizing personal information: The last issue of buying from online pharmacies is that they rarely ever protect customers’ personal information. This basically means that you could become a victim of fraud and even lose a lot of money through identity theft.
Practical Tips to Pinpoint a Trustworthy Online Pharmacy
The reasons to avoid fake online pharmacies need no further explaining, but do you know how to recognize a trustworthy website? A lot of indicators can help you do discover legal medication stores on the Internet, but seven features are considered to be typical. Here’s what you should pay attention to:
1. Look for online pharmacies that ask for a prescription
The main rule of online pharmacy is not to sell medications to visitors who don’t have a valid prescription. It’s a cornerstone of online business in the pharmaceutical industry, so you should always be looking for e-stores that demand a prescription.
It’s just a matter of common sense. After all, do you really expect a pharmacy to be allowed to sell you even the strongest pills without the official permission from your doctor? Although it’s not a guarantee in 100% of cases, a prescription request is almost always a sign of trustworthy online pharmacies.
2. Online pharmacy is officially licensed in your country
Before you choose an online pharmacy, you must do the homework and explore its website. If this is a genuine drug store, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a license issued by the national regulatory institution.
In the US, this institution is called the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration). In the UK, there is a similar institution called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. If you live in any other country, you ought to check the local drug agency and see the list of licensed online pharmacies.
3. The company has a physical address in your country
Online pharmacies need a physical address to launch the company and get the business going. Legit online stores don’t have a reason to hide business-related information, so you should also look for the firm’s physical address and phone number.
If possible, it would be perfect to give them a call and see the reaction. If you get a nice and polite answer, rest assured the company is totally legit.
4. There is a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions
The world of online pharmacy is not like every other eCommerce business out there. Namely, you can’t just talk to the chatbot or message a live agent because they can hardly give you the right drug-related information. A safe online pharmacy will always have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions and help you get the right medication.
5. Terms of service are clearly defined
Genuine online pharmacies take care of every little detail, which means they will display well-documented terms of service on their websites. Almost no one bothers reading such documents, but you should do it now because it contains crucial details such as:
- Safety directions to understand how to behave in certain situations
- The origin of medications to make sure everything is 100% safe and sound
- A list of licenses, quality badges, and similar
- Technical procedures and requirements
6. Clear shipping and pricing policies
Shipping and pricing are the two crucial aspects of online commerce and pharmacy is not an exception in this case. A trustworthy online pharmacy must display clear shipping and pricing policies because it’s the only way to avoid possible misconceptions.
Keep in mind that legal online pharmacies will never promote worldwide shipping, so stick to the companies that deliver medications locally. The entire shipping procedure is supposed to be transparent and clearly defined. At the same time, there should be no hidden fees whatsoever.
7. Beware of the small signals
The last tip on our list is to keep your eyes open wide and analyze a whole number of smaller signals that reveal whether an online pharmacy is credible or not. Some of the things you can explore are:
- Unusually high or low prices
- Website quality
- Fake stock images that look very suspicious
- The list of illegally-operating online pharmacies
- Hidden or hard-to-find contact information
The Bottom Line
No matter what you are trying to purchase, online shopping always comes with a number of practical benefits. But unlike many other eCommerce stores, online pharmacies are very prone to fraudulent activities and so you have to be very careful before completing a purchase.
In this post, we showed you why it’s important to identify a safe online pharmacy and explained seven proven ways to do it correctly. These tips should help you find a safe medication e-shop quickly, but take your time to analyze multiple websites and choose the one that guarantees quality.
Scott Mathews is a wellness instructor and a blogger at AssignmentGeek. Scott’s main writing interests include healthcare and self-improvement, but he also loves analyzing topics like personal finance and entrepreneurship. He is a passionate traveler and a dedicated long-distance runner.