Online pharmacies offer a convenient way to buy prescription medicines, and for people who aren’t able to leave the house, they provide a much-needed service.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when most of the public was forced to stay at home, patients relied on online services to keep them connected to the outside world.

Online pharmacies were able to continue helping their customers when many other healthcare providers were forced to shut in 2020. The trend for buying medicines online looks set to continue, but is it safe, or should we be returning to the high street?

How do online pharmacies work?

Some online pharmacies are an extension of the type of community pharmacy you see on the high street. They can dispense NHS valid prescriptions sent to them via the electronic prescription service (EPS) or through the post (email is not enough).

Private pharmacies, like Post My Meds, do not offer NHS services, but they can administer prescription-only medicines for a range of conditions that don’t require a face-to-face consultation, such as weight management and erectile dysfunction.

Often patients find it easier to fill out a form online for help with conditions they consider embarrassing, rather than having to face their local pharmacist.

Before their prescription is processed, patients must complete a short consultation form to help determine which medicines are suitable for them to take. This is designed to reduce the risk of them suffering any serious side effects or dangerous drug interactions.

Are online pharmacies safe?

Websites selling medicines that claim to be “internet pharmacies” are often unregulated and there is no way of knowing that the drugs they are selling are genuine. They could be out-of-date, diluted, or even fake, posing a serious health risk to patients.

The safest way to buy prescription-drugs online is to use a regulated pharmacy.

To help consumers identify registered pharmacies, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) launched the voluntary internet pharmacy logo scheme. Online pharmacies registered with the GPhC can display this logo on their website along with their registration number, to reassure customers that they are a regulated provider.

For additional peace of mind, patients are advised to look for a registered business address on the pharmacy’s website. The address must be a “bricks and mortar” pharmacy, for example, Post My Meds, has a store in Twickenham, London.

Pharmacies regulated by the GPhC follow a strict code of conduct that puts patients’ safety first. You can expect a registered pharmacist to:

  • Ensure it’s safe for you to take the medication you’ve chosen
  • Give you guidance on dosage
  • Explain the possible side effects of your chosen medicine
  • Check for harmful interactions with other drugs you are taking
  • Suggest a suitable alternative if they don’t think it’s safe

At Post My Meds, we only ever prescribe medication where we know it is safe to do so.

If you find a retailer willing to sell you prescription medicines without undergoing a consultation first, it is a clear sign they are putting online sales above patient safety.

Online Pharmacy

The key takeaway

Online pharmacies offer a fast and convenient way to get access to treatment without having to wait for a doctor’s appointment or take a trip to the chemist. For some they are a lifeline, when they can’t leave the house and need to buy medicines online.

To ensure patients’ safety, the General Pharmaceutical Council has made it easy to identify registered pharmacies. Their logo scheme gives consumers reassurance that they are buying genuine products from healthcare professionals.

Buying medicines online from unregulated retailers can put your health at risk – the medicines could be fake and their staff are unlikely to give you the correct advice.

If you’re unsure, contact the company to check their credentials or look them up on the GPhC website. At Post My Meds, you can also browse our frequently asked questions to find out more about who we are and how we operate for your peace of mind.

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored Nov 01, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed Nov 17, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm