Home Business Insights & Advice Understanding the dangers of fake online pharmacies

Understanding the dangers of fake online pharmacies

by John Saunders
5th Mar 20 10:15 am

Fake online pharmacies present a unique challenge for both healthcare professionals and the general public. As health services find it more difficult to cope with the demands caused by cuts and an ageing population, people are turning to the internet in an effort to self-medicate. While there are legitimate operations, such as The Independent Pharmacy, and numerous conveniences to shopping with one, there are just as many dangers it’s vital you’re aware of.

What is an online pharmacy

An online pharmacy provides consultations with a doctor or prescribing pharmacist over the internet to issue or renew private prescriptions a patient requires. If the prescription is approved, it will be dispensed and shipped directly to the patient’s door the next day.

They can be used to treat a wide range of simple medical conditions that don’t require a patient and doctor to meet at a face to face appointment.

Why do people use them?

Convenience is a huge factor. The idea of not having to book and wait for an appointment for a minor or reoccurring illness is appealing to the average person with a busy lifestyle. So much of what we want in life is now regularly delivered directly to our door, so it’s not ridiculous to expect the same of medicine.

The strain placed on the NHS is contributing to their increased popularity. NHS surgeries and pharmacies are at over-capacity, with an average 13-day waiting period to see a GP. If someone is looking for a repeat prescription or doubts the severity of their illness, they will feel more inclined to use an immediately available online pharmacy rather than wait almost two weeks for an in-person meeting.

24/7 access to medical advice is something driving people to websites that provide a legitimate service such as The Independent Pharmacy.

Embarrassment and not being able to travel to their local GP have also been cited as reasons why people choose to buy medicine online.

What are the dangers?

Just because there are legitimate online pharmacies does not mean this process is without its dangers.

Currently, all UK online pharmacies are required to be registered, regulated and comply with legislation designed to protect the public from the dangers of fakes. However, some pharmacies don’t comply with any rules or regulations at all and operate entirely illegally.

The danger lies in these drugs containing different active ingredients, no active ingredients or variable concentrations from the medicine a patient may be used to taking. This means a person may not know what they are taking and what dosage, which can lead to adverse reactions or in the worst case an overdose.

These medicines are often produced with an incentive of profits first and little regard for the wellbeing of the person purchasing them. As a patient, you may not have a full understanding of the drug you regularly take. A fake online pharmacy will not provide this person with the correct medical advice, which can increase the risk of adverse reactions and even the chance of addiction.

How can you recognise a fake?

So how does a person go about telling genuine online pharmacies from the fakes?

Signs of a fake

There are a couple of clear-cut tells that the pharmacy you’re meeting with and buying from might not be worth trusting:

  • The pharmacy is not asking you to provide a doctor’s prescription or complete a consultation to order prescription-only medication
  • The company aren’t asking you to fill in any information a doctor usually would prior to completing your purchase
  • The website lists no certifications, licensing and regulatory details
  • There is a lack of contact information on the website other than an email address, such as a company address or telephone number
  • The prices do not line up either industry-standard ones
  • The website isn’t offering you the chance to speak to a pharmacist or GP about the medication you’re purchasing
  • They offer the opportunity to buy medication in excessive bulk, genuine pharmacies will not do this out of safety concerns
  • You receive spam or unsolicited emails from the domain offering low-cost medication
  • The pharmacy is offering to ship worldwide
  • There are additional custom fee charges on the medication
  • The company isn’t registered in the UK (which can be checked at the footer of each web page)
  • The pricing isn’t listed in GBP (£)
  • The company website feels more sales like, featuring a lack of medical information

If a website displays any of these signs or you come away feeling uneasy about it, then do not buy or take any medication from this company. You could be putting your health and life at significant risk. At best these products will have no effect on you, at worse they could have life-threatening consequences. If an online pharmacy seems untrustworthy with too good to be true prices, it probably is.

Regulated pharmacies

There are three different types of online pharmacies:

CQC-registered online pharmacies: These are genuine and trustworthy websites which comply with the highest regulatory standards and provide the safest and most legitimate method of purchasing medicine online.

Non CQC-regulated online pharmacies: These online pharmacies are not within the scope of CQC regulation. There is no way to confirm they meet the same standards as other online pharmacies or your local GP.

Illegal online prescribing sites These are not really online pharmacies but websites posing as such. They sell unregulated medicine that could pose a serious risk to your health.

Safety is key when using an online pharmacy. Apply an extra level of diligence to your process every time you use them. You wouldn’t purchase from an online retailer without doing your research first, so it’s essential you do the same for online pharmacies.

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