Why are online prescriptions bad

Medicines from the Internet

Advantages and disadvantages

The number of online pharmacies has been growing steadily for years. This offers potential for savings, especially for chronically ill people who regularly need larger quantities of medication: because online pharmacies, which are often located abroad, can often offer lower prices than local pharmacies by selling larger quantities.

Further advantages of an online pharmacy: Free shipping - at least mostly - the ordered medication is delivered to your home - a relief for people with walking difficulties and residents of rural regions who do not have a pharmacy nearby. In addition, some online pharmacies keep a patient file at the request of the customer, which warns of possible interactions between the drugs.

However, there are also disadvantages when ordering via the global data network. To get prescription drugs, the original prescription must first be sent to the pharmacist of the online pharmacy. It then takes one to several days for the order to reach the customer - the visit to the on-site pharmacy is almost always faster. In addition, not all mail order companies settle accounts directly with the health insurance companies. In this case, patients must first pay the full price and then submit the invoice to their insurance company. New customers cannot order on account from every online pharmacy, but have to switch to cash on delivery, prepayment or credit card.

Another disadvantage: the lack of personal advice. Especially when customers are looking for over-the-counter treatment options themselves or when prescription drugs have to be taken for the first time, the on-site pharmacist can provide the patient with important additional information, such as alternatives, correct use, possible side effects or interactions with other drugs.

Be vigilant - the checklist

The biggest problem with orders on the Internet comes from dubious online pharmacies. Anyone who orders from a supplier without a German or European license must expect to receive counterfeit drugs: A random sample by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that around every second preparation from dubious senders is counterfeit - which can be a serious health risk.

It is not always easy to distinguish legitimate from dubious web pharmacies. A checklist of important quality criteria helps to assess an unknown website:

  • Is there an imprint? It should include the full name of the pharmacy, the owner and a postal address.
  • Is the professional qualification of the operator - preferably a pharmacist - stated?
  • Is the original prescription required for prescription drugs? If not, the provider is not entitled to deliver drugs to German customers.
  • Is it possible to have a prescription drawn up by the online pharmacy yourself - for example using the services of an automatic "Cyber-Doc" who makes diagnoses? Such remote diagnosis is prohibited under German law; any provider of such services is dubious.
  • Can drugs be ordered from the online pharmacy that are not approved in Germany? Sending such preparations is also not permitted.
  • Does the product information contain the following details: name of the preparation, active ingredients, area of ​​application, warnings and manufacturer name?
  • Is the information on the online pharmacy website balanced? Are both advantages and disadvantages of treatments and medications mentioned?
  • Is the information up to date? Ideally, the creation date is indicated for articles.
  • Does the online pharmacy link to dubious websites or does it contain dubious advertising?
  • Is the advertisement clearly marked? A mixing of advertising and other content, e.g. in an article text, should not take place.
  • Is there a way to ask questions? Good web pharmacies offer a hotline, an online form or answer e-mails from their customers.
  • Are personal data such as credit card data transmitted in encrypted form? Sensitive information should be encrypted according to the SSL standard - recognizable by a lock symbol next to the address bar or in the status bar of the web browser.

Hands off!

Dubious providers often betray themselves by the language of their texts:

  • "Fast", "sensational" or "guaranteed" successes are advertised.
  • The pages speak of "secret recipes", a "medical breakthrough" or "miracle cures".
  • A certain preparation can only be obtained from this online pharmacy and is only available for a short time.
  • The remedy is supposed to help against a multitude of different ailments - and that for every patient.
  • There should be no side effects, and the intake is "absolutely safe".
  • There are exuberant testimonials from individual patients or "experts".

Seal for more security

German and some European mail-order pharmacies try to differentiate themselves from dubious providers through various seals of approval. However, the criminals are always on their heels and copy the graphics onto their own pages - so check carefully all pages that have these identifying marks.

The seal of the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) offers a certain protection. Here you can find reviews of pharmacies. If the name of the provider and the associated internet address of the pharmacy are correct, it is most likely a legal offer (http://www.dimdi.de/static/de/amg/var/apotheken/index.htm).

Other seals come from the Federal Association of German Mail Order Pharmacies (BVDVA) and the European umbrella association for direct pharmacies (EAMSP). The TÜV also certifies the quality management of the pharmacies, the Federal Association of the German Mail Order Trade and Trusted Shops GmbH check data security. However, none of the signs can guarantee absolute security.

From July 2015 there will be a uniform EU-wide seal for online pharmacies. The white cross on a green striped background also shows a small EU flag. Anyone who clicks on the seal will be redirected to a page on which all providers who have been approved are listed. A comparison then shows whether you have come across a reputable seller.

Online pharmacies in other EU countries as well as in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein should be checked by the local supervisory authorities and should indicate this on their website. It is important that they also offer detailed advice and do not sell prescription drugs without a prescription. The import of pharmaceuticals from non-EU countries is only permitted to a limited extent - in addition to the laws on the import of medicines, customs conditions also play a role here.

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