Online Drug Stores: Healthy for the Wallet or Risky Business?

purchasing drugs online

Online drugs are becoming more and more popular. As wallets get tighter and debt rises, increasingly, Canadians are trying to find ways to save money. Prescription medication can be costly and eat into monthly budgets, so it’s no wonder that Canadians are looking elsewhere. While shopping online for other personal or household items can save you money, shopping online for prescription medication can be risky.

There are two types of pharmacies found online: the kind that requires a prescription and the kind that does not.

Online pharmacies that Require a Prescription

The kind that requires a prescription is obviously safer since a visit to the doctor is necessary. These pharmacies are not much different than your traditional pharmacies, except that they won’t counsel you when you pick your prescription up since the prescription is delivered right to your door. They do, however, have pharmacists available to speak with should you have any questions about your prescription.

Most people don’t deal with online pharmacies first, though. Many choose to move online after spending large amounts of money on repeated prescriptions. Although medical counsel is important, repeat customers likely know the ins and outs of their medication already. It is always recommended that you speak with a doctor first, though; especially if you are taking more than one prescription drug.

Online pharmacies say that ordering prescription drugs through them is safe, easy and convenient – and it will save you money. Just like any other pharmacy, they require a prescription from a licensed doctor. According to one pharmacy,, they “carry tens of thousands of the most commonly prescribed medications and offer both brand-named trademarked products, as well as therapeutically equivalent generic versions of many of those products.”

Most sites offer a service that allows you to find your prescription to compare prices with other pharmacies. Many will guarantee you the highest quality for the lowest price, offering free shipping and a no-hassle return policy.

If prescription drug costs are setting you back, then it’s not a bad idea to take a closer look at these sites. But be careful. You want to make sure that the site you’re dealing with is safe, secure and reliable.

Online pharmacies that don’t Require a Prescription

Here’s where things get a little scary. Believe it or not, there are online pharmacies that will sell you powerful drugs without a prescription. All you are required to do is fill out a questionnaire, check the boxes next to the drugs you want, sign a waiver and place your order. Sounds easy, right? Maybe a little too easy.

In 2000, CBC’s Marketplace did a special documentary on online pharmacies. After filling out easy questionnaires, Marketplace employees placed orders for all kinds of drugs ranging from weight loss drugs, Viagra, drugs for hair loss and Celebrex, a drug for arthritis. The prescriptions arrived – many of them extremely dangerous and addictive – without medical advice. Some came in unlabeled envelopes, not childproof bottles. All of them had the potential to cause serious side effects. Did the ‘patients’ save money? Probably. Were they at risk? Definitely.

Tips for Purchasing Health Products Online

Purchasing medication online from the wrong company could put you at risk. You might receive the wrong product, the wrong dose or nothing at all. Taking the incorrect medication at the wrong dose is risky business. If you’re on other medications it puts you at risk for dangerous interactions resulting in serious health consequences – or death.

As long as there’s a way to save a buck, though, people will turn to online drug stores. So how do they know which ones are safe and which ones aren’t? Here are some tips for purchasing drugs online.

  1. If you’re getting a prescription drug by simply filling out a questionnaire without seeing your doctor, you could be taking a huge risk. While questionnaires are helpful in some cases, they do not provide enough information to determine whether or not the drug is safe for you. Always talk to your doctor first before trying a new drug.
  2. If the site you’re on offers to give you a prescription without a medical exam, or to sell you a drug without a prescription, then it’s not a legitimate site. Find another that is.
  3. Check to make sure that the online pharmacy you choose provides access to a registered pharmacist. You should be able to contact someone at any time if you have questions.
  4. Check to see that the site you’re dealing with has a phone number and address. Many rogue pharmacies won’t offer this information.
  5. If you’re going to use an online pharmacy, choose one that’s Canadian. Other countries follow different rules and regulations. You could be putting yourself at risk – you could even be purchasing something that’s not legal in Canada.
  6. If the site is offering a “new cure” for a serious illness or a quick fix for a number of ailments, be wary. They’re most likely not legitimate.
  7. Finally, check with VIPPS from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. If they’re legitimate, they’ll be listed there.

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