10 March, 2022

The dangers of buying medicines over the internet

E-shopping is becoming increasingly popular these days as customers prefer the convenience of ordering items from home rather than driving to a physical store and purchasing goods there and then. From getting groceries delivered to your door to ordering a costume for Halloween, the Internet pretty much has it covered. But like all things made by humans, the good comes along with the bad and the ugly. 

Online pharmacies are seeing an increase in popularity for the same reasons as any other e-service; it offers customers an easier, cheaper, and more private alternative to the real thing. But receiving a red bell pepper instead of a yellow one doesn’t even begin to compare to getting your medicine mixed up in the mail!

When people take the wrong medicine they are putting their health, even their lives, at risk. The major obstacle for us is that fake medicine tends to be difficult to identify. For this reason, as well as outlining the dangers of buying medicine online, we’ll also list the various ways through which you can find out whether the medicine you get in the post is legitimate.

The Dos and Don’ts

Firstly, it is important for you to always remember to check the medicine you’re ordering. When it arrives take note of its physical appearance and make sure that things like the colour, texture, and packaging haven’t changed. Always alert your pharmacist if you notice any differences.

Counterfeit drugs are fake or copycat drugs that can be difficult to identify. That’s why it’s so easy for people to make mistakes when buying their drugs online. Even the tiniest difference in your medicine can make a large difference to your health. This is because medicines that are produced by unknown sources or approved by other countries may have slight variations and/or different ingredients to what was prescribed to you. 

This could cause you to get sicker, develop new symptoms, or develop resistance to your prescribed medicine. Additionally, if you’ve been prescribed with more than one type of medicine, taking counterfeit medicine could affect the way that the medicines work together and can cause harmful interactions.

These rogue websites sell cheap and potentially dangerous drugs that have not been checked for safety and effectiveness since they tend to be unapproved by a proper authority. So what you buy can end up having the wrong active ingredient, or too much or too little of it.

It’s All in the Details

There’s no need to panic, there are several ways that you can check whether the medicine is a counterfeit or not. A fake online pharmacy is generally full of tell-tale signs for you to recognize that it’s a fake. 

The most obvious one that you should watch out for is that it doesn’t give you a contact number or address for you to reach them. Another is that it offers prices that are dramatically lower than the competition. Some of these places may simply be trying to get your personal data in order to misuse it, so always check that the data you enter is protected.

Since the websites are made to look legitimate, identifying a fake can be difficult. But don’t worry, there’s even more you can do to make sure you’re safe. Most importantly, never buy a prescription drug without a prescription. Most of these websites allow you to do this, despite it being illegal. That’s also why you should check with the relevant authorities whether the online pharmacy has a valid license and meets the quality standards. As much as possible, use state-licensed pharmacy websites, to make sure that there is no mix up with what you buy.

The Stats

After all this, you may be wondering why people would even do it. Keep in mind that we’re living in the technical age – we love it when things are available to us online. So there’s no need to avoid buying medicine online completely, just keep what has been said here in mind when doing it. 

After all, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that just 1% of medicine available in the developed world is counterfeit. Globally, this figure stands at 10% and in areas where counterfeiting is weakly legislated against, such as in some regions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the percentage of counterfeit drugs is raised up to 30%. Moreover, it is estimated that of those illegitimate online pharmacies, 50% of the medicine available for purchase are counterfeit. Put simply, when browsing smartly the odds are in your favour.

Identifying counterfeit medicine is a tough process, even for scientists. But keep an eye out for oddities in the website you access as well as any dissimilarities in the medicine you receive, and the danger will be revealed to you. 


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