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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online pharmacy

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The Internet has become embedded in every aspect of our everyday lives. [1] Everything around us is online. [2] With internet being an essential part of our lives, even pharmacies have begun to move to the online portal. [3] The Pharma industry is one of the fastest developing industries. [4] Initially, medicines were accessible to a small group of people. But, now they are commonly and easily available. [5]

Compared to the traditional way of purchasing medicines from medical stores after seeking medical advice, people are getting adapted to purchasing medicines online. [6] Online purchase of medicines has become a common practice. [7] People are using internet not only to procure information about medical care but also to procure various medical products. [8] There has been a substantial rise in E-commerce, including online shopping. [9]

Various prescription and non-prescription medicines can now be ordered through the click of a button rather than visiting local medical stores. [7] Thanks to the internet, the drug acquisition method has become very convenient. [3] Yes, online pharmacy (also known as mail-order pharmacy, E-pharmacy, or internet pharmacy) is the next big thing. [2] In an online pharmacy, people can order their medicines from pharmacists with the aid of internet. [3] It is a terrific boon for consumers seeking bargains. [10]

It is cheaper compared to the traditional pharmacy and helps to acquire the necessary medication with relative ease. [11] The online availability and accessibility of medicines has brought a revolution in the health sector. [6] In this article, we will understand what exactly online pharmacy is, how does it work and what are its pros and cons.


What is an online pharmacy?

It is an internet-based vendor that sells medications on the internet. The order is sent to the customers via mail or courier [3,9]  It can be classified into:

(a) Legitimate Internet pharmacy websites: They offer high-quality pharmacy services as per the verification standards.

(b) Illegitimate online pharmacies: They are not verified and may not comply with international or national professional standards and regulations.

The sale of drugs via internet commenced in late 1990s. It has broadened to an extent that even United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dedicated a full section on its official website that is entitled “Buying medicines over the Internet”. However, specific guidelines have been provided to the people to stay alert against illegitimate e-pharmacies. [4] For online pharmacies to operate legally, it is essential that they must be licensed in the similar way as traditional pharmacies. [8]


How does an online pharmacy work?

It offers a mobile-based application for the general public. First of all, patients download mobile applications to their tablets or phones. Then, they can readily place their requests for medicine by uploading the scanned copy of their prescription. Prior to the medicine delivery, every drug request entered into the system is verified and checked by a team of pharmacists. The chemists direct the prescriptions they deem valid to the pharmacy warehouse in the area from where the medicines are dispensed. [4] The patients can then receive their medicines from the nearest delivery point. [3]


Benefits of online pharmacy

Strategies to improve affordable and easy access to good quality medicine for the general public is the need of the hour. [2] The availability of medicines through online delivery is indeed revolutionary and offers a plethora of benefits. [12]

(a) Easy and Convenient

Online pharmacy is an easy and convenient mode to buy medicines. It is particularly beneficial for (a) individuals who live far away from drug stores, (b) old, physically challenged and disabled people who cannot step out to fetch medications for themselves, (c) working professionals who have a very busy schedule, and (d) people who live in remote and rural zones.  A person can place order anytime and anywhere and have them delivered at the most convenient time.

With technology progressing at a remarkable rate, the online pharmacy offers a wide array of benefits that make life easier. The auto-reminders option is one such promising advantage. Many e-pharmacies also remind patients regarding order refills. This assists the patients to maintain their therapeutic regimen. The consumer's prescription may be submitted at any time.

Moreover, there is no requisition to rush to the drug stores during business hours. Consumers don't have to wait in any long queues. Furthermore, refills can be systematically set up to be sent automatically. Online pharmacies are available 24/7 and for solving the queries regarding medicines, 24/7 online customer supports are also available.

(b) Affordable and cost-efficient

Compared to physical pharmacies, online pharmacies provide exciting discounts and deals. The price of medicine purchased from E-pharmacy is less when compared to the local pharmacy shop. This is because in online pharmacy, there is no third party and the medication comes directly in store from the drug manufacturer.

There is no need to spend money on renting premises, warehouses, and maintaining a huge staff, including sellers. Decreasing such funds permits the owner to sell medicines at lower prices.  Furthermore, the shipping cost is much cheaper when compared to the expense incurred from travel costs associated with the visit to a local medical shop.

(c) Time-saving

In just a few minutes, a person can head over to the online pharmacy websites and purchase any prescription medicine as per his/her requirement. It aids to save the time that a person spends travelling to the drug store and waiting in line for purchasing medicine. Hence, online pharmacies save both effort and time of a person.

(d) Wide range of choices:

Compared to the physical pharmacy, online pharmacy yields an enormous range of options at reasonable rates and have more extensive stocks of medicine. So, a person may easily get the medicine. For example, if a person wants to purchase antibiotics online, “Canada Drugs Direct” is one such source that presents an extensive array of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

(e) Information is confidential and private:

In an online pharmacy, the information that a person provides during medicine purchase is generally confidential and private. This way is particularly valuable for those people who feel embarrassed to talk face to face with doctors & pharmacists in conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, acne etc. Therefore, a person can order the products without being humiliated.

For people who feel awkward walking into a pharmacy to buy products like pregnancy test kits, sanitary napkins, condoms, tampons, an online pharmacy is an easy and discreet way to get the product.

(f) Facilitates access to medical information:

It enables better access to pharmaceutical products and relevant drug information. The online pharmacy websites provide useful information regarding diseases, drug interactions and adverse effects of medicine in the form of articles, informative blogs, and product facts. They are also useful for reminding the people at what time they have to take medication and how much dose is required.

To buy certain medicines in online pharmacies, a patient may use a special catalog where he/she can easily and promptly get acquainted with the assortment, read the annotation, contra-indications, dose, and compare the drug with its analogues. This is extremely convenient because it enables a patient to decide whether to buy that drug or not. With the click of a button, the consumers can also compare costs and often product ratings.

(g) Easy and secured payments

Online pharmacy is secure with multiple options for payment getaways. A person can readily select the payment option as per his/her convenience and also avail amazing offers and discounts. Online pharmacies offer the facility of cashless payments either by debit or credit card, paytm. A person can also pay by cash on delivery. [2-5, 7-8, 12-13]


Disadvantages of online pharmacy

Though the online sales of drugs are beneficial to the consumers, but it is also associated with a few risks.

  • Lack of immediate access to medications
  • The growing use of online pharmacies has deprived patients of physical encounters and face to face discussions with professional licensed pharmacists. Hence, by resorting to these means, personal communication between pharmacists and patients has been reduced.
  • Few e-pharmacies can dispense medicines to people without a prescription. People who procure these medicines might experience deleterious drug-drug interactions and side effects. In such cases, the health of a person may deteriorate instead of healing. Few illegal, fraudulent or disreputable e-pharmacies sell drugs by putting human health at significant risk. Consumers must be aware of such rogue drug stores.
  • It is difficult to assess if the website is legitimate or not. Moreover, there is a possibility that the prescription drugs bought online may be illegal, counterfeit, outdated or unapproved.
  • Online pharmacies may promote drug misuse, drug abuse, and self-medication. Misdiagnosis and inappropriate usage of medicines may lead to dangerous drug interactions. These dangers may further be exacerbated in the case of unlicensed and illegally operated online pharmacies.[3, 8, 9, 14, 15]



As the use of the internet has grown and expanded globally, it has considerably impacted many aspects of our lives. One such profound impact is the opportunity to procure prescription and non-prescription drugs online. [8] The development of technology has helped ease buying medicines online. [5] The online pharmacy is the most convenient way through which the consumer can quickly get medicines over the internet. [2]

Online pharmacies provide better pricing, greater anonymity, and more convenience when compared to offline stores. They improve accessibility for people with limited mobility and for people in remote regions. They also offer media alerts (personalized medicine reminder service), amazing and pocket-friendly discounts, and doorstep delivery within a short period of time. Relevant information about substitutes and noxious reactions is also available on the e-pharmacy websites. [9]

The concept of online pharmacies and online sale of medicines save a lot of money, effort along with time and has immense potential for growth. [12] For enhancing their site functionality, online pharmacies are using different forms of technology like video streaming on health topics, mobile apps and text reminders to order repeat prescriptions. [16] Even though internet pharmacies offer several benefits to the customers, there are significant drawbacks in terms of quality and patient-pharmacist communication. [15]

As the online pharmacy industry grows, so do concerns about the safety of procuring prescription drugs via the internet. Unfortunately, fraudulent or disreputable websites selling prescription drugs do exist. [15] Numerous government agencies, including US-FDA, as well as professional organizations, have cooperated in designing novel guidelines to make the online acquisition of drugs safer. [8] Consumer awareness is the key to curb such deceptive practices. [9]

The buyers must be enlightened about the requirement to check authenticity of service provider as well as product, and to evade fraudulent sites that peddle drugs without a legal prescription. Good e-pharmacies have clearly defined quality and safety benchmarks, a verifiable physical address and registered pharmacist on roll, and uncomplicated privacy and security policies. The doctors must acquaint themselves with some reputable and legitimate e-pharmacies that they may suggest to their patients. [9]



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