In the past, most people would need to visit brick-and-mortar stores to make purchases. However, those days are close to over, with the significant rise in online shopping within the past decade or two. In the year of 2010, less than five percent of sales occurred online. In this past decade alone, this statistic has greater than tripled to 18 percent of sales taking place online. This uptake in online purchases is for several reasons, some being time savings, the ability to browse multiple stores, lower cost, an abundance of options, and more. Likewise, it is reported that about 76 percent of adults in the US shop online.

With just about everything being available at the click of a button, many are looking towards purchasing their medication online. The hassle of going to the pharmacy, waiting in lines, and fronting a large cost are some of the many reasons people have begun avoiding in-person pharmacies. While this is a great idea in theory, there are several caveats when it comes to purchasing your medication over the Internet. This article will discuss what you should know about buying medication online.

Trends in the online medication sphere

We know that general online shopping has increased in recent years, but what about buying medication online? One study aimed to evaluate the frequency and attitudes of patients in terms of buying their medicine on the Internet. In a survey of over a thousand people, 82 percent of individuals knew that they could purchase their medication online. However, despite this statistic, only four percent utilized the web to get their medication a least once.

This study also analyzed the reasonings behind why patients may choose or not choose to access online medications. Advantages included convenience, cost savings, and greater accessibility, while disadvantages included lack of control and regulation, the risk of counterfeit products, and lack of counseling available. These are all valid concerns when it comes to buying online, so let’s deep dive into the benefits and risks.

Benefits of Buying Medication Online

When it comes to buying your medications online, many of the same benefits apply as does normal online shopping. These advantages include the following.

Convenience and accessibility

One of the most practical benefits of utilizing the Internet for your pharmacological needs is its convenience. The Internet offers a one-stop shop for almost everything you need, including medications. Most of us are very busy, not having time to check off everything on our to-do list by running to several stores, drugstores, and pharmacies looking for what we need. The internet allows us to make all our purchases right here in our homes, without having to leave the house. Ultimately, this saves us time and money. Not to mention, this is exponentially more convenient for the elderly and disabled patients of the world who may have trouble leaving their homes or getting transportation. Being able to make online purchases prevents them from depending on others for their care, health, and wellness.

Potential cost savings

As we know, medications can be incredibly expensive. Sometimes our drugs may be covered by insurance, but even if they are, the copays can still be unreasonable. Thankfully, getting your medication online allows you to shop around for the best price. Additionally, sometimes the medications are available at discounted prices. However, be cautious and only purchase from valid online pharmacies. We’ll discuss this warning later on.

Wide range of options and availability

As previously mentioned, buying anything online allows you to see several options all at once. You can take some time to browse different online pharmacies and medications to select which one is best for you, considering things like cost, shipping, brand and generic options, and more. This differs from in-person pharmacies, where sometimes medications will be out of stock or they’ll only have one brand or generic available.

Risks associated with buying medication online

Although the advantages of purchasing your medicine on the internet seem promising, there are several caveats to this method that are important to be aware of. Buying off of these sites poses a risk of counterfeit drugs, health risks, and potentially fraudulent scams and pharmacies.

One significant risk of buying your medication online is the chance of receiving counterfeit drugs. Illegitimate online pharmacies may sell medications that are not approved by regulatory agencies like the FDA and thus are not made by authorized manufacturers. Therefore, the drugs you receive may lack the necessary active ingredients that make the medication work. Additionally, they may contain harmful substances, which can pose serious health risks. Likewise, online medications may not effectively treat your medical condition, leaving you untreated with worse symptoms or complications.

In addition to the risk of counterfeit products, medications purchased online may be susceptible to improper storage and handling. Reputable pharmacies follow strict storage guidelines set out by the FDA to preserve the efficacy and safety of medications until their expiration date. However, online sellers may not adhere to these standards, exposing products to conditions that can compromise their effectiveness. Things like temperature, humidity, and exposure to light can all affect the medication’s stability, leading to lower potency or increased toxicity.

Additionally, not all websites that claim to sell medications do. There are many fraudulent online pharmacies that scam customers. Some websites may look legit but operate without proper licensing and don’t abide by regulatory standards. These “pharmacies” may trick consumers by providing large discounts, making false claims about their products, and even selling counterfeit medications. By purchasing drugs from these fraudulent retailers, you may not receive effective products and also are at risk for financial fraud and identity theft.

Researching Online Pharmacies

Although there are several advantages to purchasing your medications online, the risks associated with doing such are large. If you decide you still want to proceed with utilizing online retailers, be sure to do adequate research to ensure they are legitimate.

It is important to first verify that the online pharmacy is legitimate, which requires ensuring that the site is both licensed and accredited to dispense medications. Real pharmacies must abide by certain laws and regulations, which are confirmed by their licensing information. If you were to walk into any in-person pharmacy, you would see these certificates and information posted publicly around the pharmacy proving their legitimacy. The same goes for online pharmacies as well. If you don’t see that these pharmacies are recognized by regulatory bodies, they may not be operating legally or ethically.

Another way to verify the legitimacy of an online retailer is to check for customer reviews and testimonials. While these reviews may be posted on the website itself, it’s recommended to also do a quick Google search on the company. This is because the company itself might cherry-pick positive testimonials for display on the website. Taking to Google will help you to see true feedback from other customers, perhaps on other forums such as Reddit. You will want to look for positive reviews discussing the medication quality, customer service, shipping, and delivery. If you see lots of negative reviews about these topics, you may want to look elsewhere.

General Tips

There are also a few other things to look out for when looking at an online pharmacy. The following are some red flags that an online pharmacy is unsafe, including the website:

  • Does not require a prescription from a doctor
  • Does not employ a licensed pharmacist for counseling purposes
  • Provides large discounts yielding extremely low prices
  • Is not licensed by your state board of pharmacy and in the US
  • Delivers unusable medication (e.g., damaged packaging, expired product, product in a foreign language, or product without an expiration date)
  • Charges you for things you did not order or get delivered

In addition, there are several green flags to look for when checking out an online pharmacy. These include if the pharmacy:

  • Requires a prescription from a doctor
  • Employs a licensed pharmacist for counseling purposes
  • Has a US address and phone number
  • Has a license with the state board of pharmacy.


In summary, there are several key advantages to purchasing medication online. It offers convenience, increased accessibility, and potential cost and time savings for patients. While these are all great points, there are several disadvantages to purchasing medication online, the biggest being the risk of buying from fraudulent online pharmacies.

When you purchase medications from unauthorized retailers, you are putting your health, finances, and identity at risk. You may receive a product that does not contain or contain enough of the active ingredient you need. It may also contain other harmful substances, or be damaged, expired, and/or unusable. Several websites may also be scams, making you pay for a product you will never receive or a product that is not the medication you ordered.

Knowing these risks, it is important to do your due diligence and use caution when buying medication online.