The birth of the internet gave us many things, from the ability to communicate across the world in milliseconds to a whole array of cat pictures.
It also allowed people greater access to information, not just trivia, but very important information. It allowed us to do our own learning far more easily, giving us access to health and medical information. You can type your symptoms into a search bar and come back with a list of potential ailments, a trick which might actually do more harm than good. The worldwide web can make an innocuous headache feel like the end of the world.
Almost as soon as it became possible to “diagnose” (and by “diagnose”, we mean “guess”) your illness online, it became possible to medicate said illness. Online pharmacies popped up, offering every medicine under the sun with promises of quick delivery and quicker results. If you dare to dip into a your email’s spam folder, you’ll be sure to see that a lot of the messages are from this kind of business, usually selling Viagra.
With the internet came anonymity, and especially in the case of sensitive or personal illnesses, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), online pharmacies took to offering medicines to solve problems that sidestepped the need to see a doctor. However, it’s not so simple, or necessarily legal.
First of all, it’s illegal for anyone to buy prescription medicine without a prescription. Some of these scam sites don’t check you have a prescription for prescription-only medicine, and whilst you may think that you know best, these can often have side effects, and aren’t suitable for everyone to take. Your doctor can advise you on what medicine is best for you, and you can then buy it from a legitimate pharmacy.
Then there’s the case that you might not even be buying what you think you’re buying. Just because a website says that you’re getting the finest quality, purest medicine that money can buy, it doesn’t mean you are. If the website is illegal, that means it’s unregulated. And when it’s unregulated, that means there’s no body in the UK checking that the medicines are real.
When you shop online, you risk handing over your bank details to potential fraudsters. Almost all legitimate websites will have safeguards in place so you know that your personal information is secure and can’t be seen or touched. However, when you buy from somewhere dodgy, there’s not the same security. But you don’t just risk your bank details in you buy fake medicine online - you’re also potentially endangering yourself. The alleged medicine you buy may contain none of the active ingredient, or it may be too weak or too strong. It might also contain other, dangerous substances. It’s not worth the risk, just to save yourself speaking to your doctor.
That isn’t to say that all online pharmacies shouldn’t be trusted, it’s just a case of knowing which to trust.
The surest way to check if a pharmacy is legal and legitimate is to check the bottom of the website’s page. All pharmacies are required to display a green and white logo which reads “Click to verify if this website is operating legally” - you can check ours out at the bottom of this page.
This is a scheme operated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Click the logo, and you’ll be directed to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website, which lists approved online pharmacies and the type of medicines they’re allowed to sell.
A simple check could save your wallet and your health.