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A Beginner’s Guide to Using Online Pharmacies Safely

With people turning to the internet to better understand their health, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to also order their treatment online.

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Medication for weight loss and erectile dysfunction are among some of the most common treatments to be sold online. With some fake sites selling high quantities of medication for a low price, it may be very tempting to go for the best deal.

It isn’t uncommon for unsafe websites to sell diluted, expired or false medication for a reduced price through the internet. When ordering from an unregulated site, you are never guaranteed to receive the same medication that you have ordered.

If you’ve made the decision to order your treatment online, it’s good to do your research first and to know the signs to look for before you make a purchase.

Here, we’ve compiled some steps to help you order medication safely online - and more importantly - to ensure that the medication you buy has been prescribed by a registered professional. These steps are intended to help you recognise whether an online pharmacy is safe, legal and following regulatory standards.

First and foremost, is the pharmacy registered?

A well-practised pharmacy will clearly display their registration credentials on their web page. If you are unable to find these details, the site may not be a trustworthy one to use. A well-practised pharmacy should be completely transparent in displaying their registration credentials. If you are unable to find the pharmacy’s registration details, it may be best to avoid using the site.

There is a number of government-sanctioned bodies that are in place to regulate every UK pharmacy. For an online pharmacy to be operating legally, they must be accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA).

Learn how to do your research on an online pharmacy, and find out the tell-tale signs as to whether a medication-selling website is a legally practising one:

1. The Regulated Pharmacy Logo:

A pharmacy that is displaying the Registered Pharmacy Logo means that the Pharmacy undergoes varied and regular checks by the GPhC. The GPhC follows a regulatory procedure to maintain the safe and effective practise of pharmacy.

By looking at the pharmacies’ documentation, patient interactions, and staff processes and procedures, the GPhC ensures that the pharmacy is functioning safely. A Pharmacy that are practising to sufficient standards are approved and accredited by the GhPC.

An approved pharmacy will be on the GPhC register. For an example, look at Instant eCare’s GPhC accreditation here:

2. The EU Common Logo:

Since July 2015, it has been mandatory that all pharmacies in the EU use the EU Common logo. For a website to legally sell medication, it must be registered by the MHRA. The MHRA is a governing body that ensures any company that is selling medication is approved and registered to sell and distribute certain medication types.

By clicking the EU Common logo, you will be taken to a page showing the pharmacy’s registration details and approval status.

You can read more about the MHRA guidelines here.

Do they require a medical prescription?

It is a big red flag if a website is willing to sell you medication without a valid prescription. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also highly unlikely that the medication you’ve ordered will be authentic as it is not a legally practising website. It is important that you do not buy medication from one of these sites. Keep an eye out for pharmacies that provide medication without a valid prescription.

An online pharmacy may provide you with an option to order your prescription online after a consultation with one of their prescribers, or they may require proof of an already existing prescription. Both paid and free prescriptions are safe to use.

See our “About our Process” page for a detailed example of a digital prescription.

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If you’re still unsure..

By now, you should be pretty in-the-know when spotting a legitimate site from a fraudulent one. If you’re ever uncertain about an online pharmacy, do your research beforehand. Ordering potentially fake medication for a cheaper price is never worth the cost of your health. Don’t forget, if something feels off, or if a deal on medication seems too good to be true, it probably is.