Because of the internet age, everything is now sold online—even medications are sold online. Virtual pharmacies and dispensaries for medications are increasingly popular, especially for consumers seeking lower prices for their maintenance treatments.
Although there are reliable online drug stores on the web which are online branches of legally operating ground pharmacies, there is also a large fraction of web pharmacies which are non-compliant with pharmacy legislations. Worse, some are even scam sites with no intent but to steal their clients’ money and account information.
What is “Online Drug Store”?
Online drug stores offer prescription service for its consumers which do not have the time or the confidence to shop for their medications at local drugstores.
However, not all “online drug stores” on the web are actual pharmacies—some are merely service providers or “escrow service” sites which mediate the sale of products between clients and actual ground pharmacies. These websites often are the ones offering different prices for a single medication, depending on where the products will be shipped from.
On the other hand, some online drug stores are online extensions of actual ground drugstores. These shops are only advertising their on-hand products for consumers which are unable to visit their brick and mortar shops.
Most drugstores sell almost all prescription and nonprescription products and most of the online drug stores on the web classify their products according to the medical conditions they treat. Web pharmacies sell medications for erectile dysfunction, mental disorders, diabetes, weight loss, hair loss, birth control, heart disease, and various other chronic and common medical conditions.
Some shops, though, are specialty stores, or web pharmacies offering one product category. Some stores sell only impotence treatments, steroids, pain relief meds, antibiotics, and others.
Validly operating online drug stores should ask patients for their written prescription orders from their doctors especially for the Rx-only products, just like at the local drugstores.
However, not all online pharmacies are compliant—there are some online drug stores offering to dispense medications despite the consumers being unable to send their Rx orders from their doctors.
On the other hand, some online drug stores are offering “online medical consultations” for patients without prescriptions but want to order from the shop. Stores offering medical consultations make their clients answer health questionnaires which licensed doctors will evaluate after the orders were placed. In some cases, consumers are also made to undergo “video consultations”, although shops offering these are rare.
Overall, government agencies and pharmacy associations warn consumers about online drug stores which do not ask for prescriptions—valid and legitimate virtual pharmacies should always ask for prescriptions for Rx products.
Benefits of Shopping at Online Drug Store
There are considerable benefits when it comes to shopping for your meds at online drug stores, provided that they are legitimate. Here are some of the pros of shopping meds at online drug shops instead of your local pharmacies:
- Convenience – shopping your meds online is convenient—you can save time and effort by ordering meds at the comfort of your own homes. There is no need to make trips to the local pharmacy and queue—you have access to your medications with just one click.
- Anonymity – discreet shipping is often one of the main marketing pitches by web drug stores. Shopping your meds online also saves patients from embarrassment, especially those who are suffering from socially stigmatized diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases, sexual dysfunctions, and various others.
- Good pricing – most online drug stores offer good deals for the consumers—some give out coupons and limited time discounts for the buyers, which are often not available at ground pharmacies. Also, you can get the best prices for your meds online, since the resources are practically unlimited and because you can compare store prices.
- Wide product range – web drug stores also offer a wide product range—some shops even sell hard to find medications, which may not be readily available at local drug shops.
Risks of Using Online Drug Stores
Whilst there are benefits to using online drug stores, there are also risks when it comes to their use. These are some salient points you may need to consider when planning to shop for your meds online instead of at your local pharmacies:
- Long wait for the products – since not all online pharmacies are situated in your country, most online drug stores are shipping your items overseas, which means a long transit time for your products. If you’re not willing to wait weeks for a medication you presently need, you are better off buying your meds at your local drug stores.
- Poor return policies – you can’t immediately return wrong or damaged products and also can’t instantly have them replaced. Also, you won’t know about the state of your orders unless you’ve received them, so there is no knowing if the meds sent to you are in good condition.
- Risk for counterfeit products – because you can’t see the meds shipped to you, you can’t verify if you’ll be sent genuine articles or fakes. That’s why you have to choose reliable drugstores, as counterfeit products can be harmful or even detrimental to your health.
- Risk for scams – although there are good online platforms you can trust, it is hard to weed out scam sites from the good ones. Sometimes, you’ll never know if an online drug store is a scam store unless you’ve been ripped off.
How Can I Find Safe and Reliable Online Drug Stores?
Although sourcing products online can be risky, you can avoid getting scammed or ripped off when making your online drug purchases. Here are some tips you may need when shopping for your meds online:
- Look for shops asking for valid prescriptions for your orders.
- According to NABP, look for websites with the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Prescription Service) seal, especially from stores operating from the United States.
- Beware of deals which are too good to be true.
- Look for web pharmacies with hefty reviews from reliable third-party sources—not on-site reviews.
- Read shop policies and stay away from those which do not allow buyer claims for product losses, damages, and any shipping or delivery failure.
- Verify the shops using the database of various associations or agencies such as NABP, CIPA Rx, Pharmacy Checker, Legit Script, and others.
Online drug stores are convenient to shop from and are highly beneficial, especially for individuals who do not have the time to spare for long trips to the pharmacy. However, you must be aware of the risks of online drug shopping and be vigilant against scam sites. You can find good stores with excellent products and services—you only have to look for them hard.