The medical industry is changing and online pharmacies replace the ones at the corner of the street. But are they safe? Let’s find out!
Within the last decade, medical supply stores have been disappearing from local areas. The arrival of big box stores has made it difficult for them to stay. Whatever businesses are left may have limited inventory at best.
What happens if you require specific medical items on a regular basis? The answer may be easier than you think: online pharmacies.
They can provide you with the medicine you or your loved ones need at your door. And with just a click of a button. This is fast and convenient. But is it safe?
In this article, we are going to look at the pros and cons of buying medication from online pharmacies and how you can do it safely.
The Benefits Of Online Pharmacies
Here are the advantages of using online pharmacies to get your medical supplies:
1. Quick And Easy To Order
If you have a special health-related supply need such as wound care, ostomy or diabetic products, trying to buy local can prove to be tremendously difficult.
Locating the items you need is the first chore. Finding every item in one single place is yet another headache.
Not only do you waste time and gas running around, but you’re likely to get stressed visiting store after store all selling the same things.
None of these options is good for you, especially at a time when you’re trying to take care of yourself, or a loved one.
Difficulty finding what you need when it’s imperative is why so many people turn to the internet. When you realize how much easier it will make your life, you may want to consider buying your medical supplies online.
The process of ordering and delivery is the same as you’ll find in any other online store: just put your medical supplies in your virtual cart and add your delivery details.
It’s not a complicated process; in fact, is much easier than driving around looking for your medicine in physical drug stores.
Not only can you shop from the comfort of your own home, but you’ll receive your order right at your doorstep without ever having to drive anywhere.
2. Offers Discretion
If you feel awkward about buying certain products, online pharmacies allow you to avoid the embarrassment.
Among the medical products that make people uncomfortable to get from physical stores are:
- Head lice shampoo;
- Hair growth products;
- Anti-fungal medications;
- Condoms, erection pills, and other genitals related products;
- Laxatives, suppositories, and hemorrhoid creams;
- Pregnancy tests, etc.
Whatever medicine you’re buying from online pharmacies, you have complete discretion. This is something you can’t say about bricks-and-mortar pharmacies where everyone waiting in line behind you can hear and/or see what you’re buying.
3. The Trust Can Be Verified
Unlike a physical pharmacy, online pharmacies have testimonials and reviews. And you can easily use this in your favor.
You can read customers reviews and see if they received their order on time, if the medication is genuine and high-quality, or if the pharmacy is trustworthy.
Don’t always rely on the reviews you find on the pharmacy’s website. Make sure to check its validity and trust on third-party customer review websites such as Trustpilot.
Unlike on their own online pharmacy website, third-party reviews and testimonials can’t be edited or deleted by the pharmacy’s administrator.
That means that you can take extra care when choosing the right medicine for you or your loved ones.
4. Offers The Lowest Price
Another huge advantage of buying medicine from online pharmacies is the price.
An online pharmacy manages to offer you a better price than a physical one because:
- There is no rent to pay by the owner.
- In some cases, they don’t even keep an inventory and send you the medicine straight from the manufacturer.
- The number of employees is limited.
- With one store, they can reach people from around the world without opening a new pharmacy in every location.
- The distribution costs are nearly zero.
As you can see, there is a lot to cover until the medicine is on the shelves in your local pharmacy. And all these costs reflect on the price of the products.
Now, not all online pharmacies have the same small price, but you can easily compare prices with tools such as Pharmacy Checker, and get the cheapest product from the list.
It’s easier to find the best price for your medicine in the virtual space than to drive to each local pharmacy and compare prices.
Also, many websites offer discounted prices for multiple items purchased. So if you have a large family, you can get their medicine too, and save good money for both you and your loved ones.
5. It’s Convenient For Elders And Disabled People
Going to the pharmacy to get your meds can be a real challenge if you’re over 60 or disabled. And relying on someone else to do it for you is frustrating and uncomfortable.
Not to mention that, if you don’t have someone to assist you, you can be left without medication or proper care and treatment.
Fortunately, online pharmacies changed the way elderly and disabled people get their medicine: they no longer have to leave their home.
This is one of the most important benefits of online pharmacies: access to meds for people that struggle to leave their homes.
6. Hard To Find Items
By shopping online, not only can you find your medical products all in one place, but you’re likely to find unique and hard to find items. You virtually have the world at your fingertips.
This also applies if you’re searching for a specific brand. You have a better chance of finding an exact brand online in seconds, instead of hours spent looking in stores.
You may discover new and better brands that you would have otherwise never known about.
7. Keeps You Informed Before Buying
Most of the online pharmacies have product pages with all the information you need about the product such as ingredients and side-effects.
So if you want to research a treatment your doctor prescribed before buying the meds, you can find online all the information you need.
Most often, a doctor will prescribe you a treatment without telling you how the medication fights your symptoms. And sometimes, you won’t know the side effects either.
In this case, it’s better to be an informed patient and don’t just putting your trust in your doctor’s hands. Get informed, read all the information on the product page before buying it.
Some online pharmacies have also a scanned version of the product label where you can get all the information you need before actually purchasing the item.
The Downsides Of Buying From Online Drug Stores
Of course, you can’t get only benefits from buying your medicine from online drug stores. Here are the (few) cons of online pharmacies:
1. “Less” Regulation
Nowadays, it is very easy to set up a website and sell whatever you want there. That’s why there are so-called online drug stores that illegally sell medicine.
So if you’re concerned about the proper regulation of online pharmacies, you’re not alone. FDA already started a fight against unsafe sites.
But since this is a relatively new industry, it will take a while until all the online pharmacies will be properly regulated.
So check out the below guide on how to spot unsafe online pharmacies!
2. No Personal, No Medial History
Buying medication online without consulting with your doctor isn’t ideal. But for minor illnesses, such as a mild cough or pain, most of us skip the doctor’s appointment and go straight to the pharmacy. Or, in this case, straight to an online pharmacy.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for more serious illnesses, you need the advice of a professional. Plus, your doctor knows your medical history, which you can’t say about online pharmacies.
That’s why a doctor is important; because he’ll give you the right treatment according to your medical history, not just to the current symptoms.
Knowing your medical history can be a real advantage, something that online pharmacies can’t provide.
How To Spot Unsafe Online Pharmacies?
With some care and attention, you can easily spot and avoid those unsafe websites. Here’s what you should look out for:
1. Check The Domain Extension
All pharmacies with the domain extension .pharmacy have been previously vetted by regulators. If the website you’re visiting is example.pharmacy (instead of example.com), then this online pharmacy is regulated.
But most of the online pharmacies still use a .com domain extension. And this does not mean the pharmacy isn’t regulated.
So additional steps are required for you to identify if the online pharmacy you found is trustworthy.
2. Valid Phone Number
Any regulated and respected online pharmacy will provide you a valid phone number for contact and support.
Check on the contact page if there is any, or at the bottom of the home page.
If there is a phone number, call them and ask something about a product you’re interested in. This way you’ll check to see if the number is valid, you’ll be able to tell if their personnel is properly trained, and you’ll get your questions answered.
If there isn’t any phone number listed on the website, there might be chat support. So the unexisting of a phone number shouldn’t mean that the online pharmacy is unsafe.
They might get rid of the phone support for different reasons such as the costs, the limited number of employees, etc.
But a valid phone number also does not make the pharmacy trusted and regulated. So we need to do further research.
3. Inspect Their License
This pretty much depends on your country, but most often, the licensing is displayed at the bottom of the page.
If you can’t find the license anywhere on the website, then step away.
If there are a license and a valid phone number, then you must also go through the next checkpoint.
4. Is A Prescription Required?
You should NEVER be able to buy a prescription drug without a prescription. Period.
So if you find medications for sale, and you already know that a prescription is required for them, but you’re not asked for it, then this is an unsafe pharmacy.
But if everything is okay and all these checkpoints are passed, there is a single step to take in order to make sure the pharmacy is trustworthy:
5. Read Reviews
Even though the online pharmacy is regulated, it might not be a good fit for you for various reasons, such as slow delivery, lack of proper customer support, etc.
All these can be verified in the comment, reviews, and testimonial sections. And an online pharmacy not providing any of these is not trustworthy at all.
Bar in mind that the person who manages an online store has full control over the entire website, including the review section. So he can edit, or even add fake comments to make you believe their service is excellent.
To avoid this unfortunate situation, you should check the reviews from third-party reviews website. These reviews and objective and can’t be altered by the online pharmacy’s owner.
A Personal Touch To Online Shopping
While anonymity can certainly be a plus, many people fear there is a less personal element to shopping online.
However, behind every internet store, there are hardworking people with a passion for that business. They’re familiar with and can sympathize with your specific need.
You’re likely to discover that online medical shopping was the best decision you’ve made in a long time.