Online Pharmacies Become Life-Saving but Still Raise Concerns

Buying anything online — clothes, electronics, furniture or groceries — became a sort of fashion, and e-pharmacies are catching up with the trend. From the very beginning, concerns over counterfeit drugs and quality control were creating obstacles for online pharmacies to utilize their full potential in the century of high technologies. Nevertheless, healthcare services are increasingly going online, and e-pharmacy sector is finding new solutions to survive and grow. Saving money is a major factor for customers to opt for online pharmacies over their neighborhood drugstore, but how is it possible? Is buying cheaper drugs online a truly smarter choice or lower price-lower quality solution that may possibly be harmful? Read more to find answers on these and other important e-pharmacy questions.

A glimpse of history

Online shopping as we know it today began to develop rapidly in the mid-90s. This development understandably relied on internet expansion and the increasing number of internet users. Online shopping has been offering a number of advantages: the stores are available 24/7 from any place with internet access, customers can find additional product information and reviews, compare prices and discounts from various sellers. Drugstore.com was one of the first online pharmacies to offer an adequate and secure service. Inspired by its success, many other pharmacies with varying reputation have appeared on the e-market.

Despite the growing e-pharmacy sector, prescription drug prices have remained high. This has brought an advantage for Canadian pharmacies, which sold drugs cheaper than their counterparts in the United States due to laws enforcing drug price regulation, as well as collaboration with manufacturers in different countries. However, some sites posing as Canadian pharmacies were operating illegally and sold potentially dangerous products, which caused concern at the international level.

In the 2000s, attempts were made to mitigate the problem of fake drugs and rogue online pharmacies. In 2004, the main search engines were made to exclude from search results e-pharmacies not validated by an online verification agency. In 2010, however, this practice was discarded due to inefficiency. The FDA and equivalent agencies worldwide have been warning consumers against buying apparently counterfeit drugs on the internet, but their efforts to stop the illicit sales of medicines are considered to have very little effect.

Current situation

Against the backdrop of growing prescription drug prices in the United States, and the lack of effective measures imposed by the state to tackle the escalating problem, online pharmacies offering substantial savings are desperately needed. As the survey showed, Americans with chronic conditions, low income, and insufficient drug cost coverage are often forced to choose between buying medicines, food, and paying rent. An opportunity to purchase cheaper drugs, sometimes at prices ten times lower than the local drugstore offers, in neighboring Canada or Mexico, is literally life-saving. Busloads of Americans are coming to Canada with the sole purpose of buying insulin, as a 1-month supply of the drug reaches an average of $300 for the three major insulin brands in the US; limited amounts of medicines, up to a 3-month supply, can be legally carried across the border.

Apparently, however, a shopping trip to a neighboring country is not always possible or cost-effective. Not everyone is lucky enough to have friends going to Canada on regular business or private trips too. This is where foreign online pharmacies with international shipping become a solution, sometimes the only one, to obtain safe drugs at lower prices. Apart from Canada, affordable drugs can be found at pharmacies based in Israel, India and UK. Unfortunately, ordering drugs by mail remains illegal and against US federal law, despite attempts made to legalize the practice. On the other hand, in the US, no one was ever prosecuted for ordering drugs in small amounts, obviously aimed at personal use. Thus, reputable online pharmacies offering low-cost drugs are becoming increasingly required as the drug prices escalate.

Why online pharmacies become more popular

Lower drug cost

Pharmacy Checker has reported that every year, at least 5 million Americans are purchasing medications from foreign e-pharmacies for financial reasons. For people with low incomes whose insurance does not cover the necessary medicines, foreign pharmacies are sometimes the only source of affordable medicines. According to another study, 50 million Americans did not take their prescribed medications in 2012 because of high prices, and half of them reported that it caused health deterioration. A significant portion of online drug purchases is made in licensed and secure online pharmacies, the report claims, and their use is no more dangerous than buying drugs in a brick-and-mortar drugstore. Although a cautious approach in choosing e-pharmacies is simply necessary in order to identify rogue websites, e-pharmacy advocates argue that impeding the use of all foreign drugstores in general is unacceptable in the current drug price crisis.

Convenience

With online shopping being truly widespread, one doesn’t have to explain its convenience in much detail. Although some people still prefer to shop in the traditional way and meet their pharmacist face-to-face, others opt for online pharmacies that can be accessed from a computer or smartphone 24 hours a day. As this sector develops, the number of delivery and payment options increases, web interface becomes more user-friendly, and placing an order takes minutes. Some pharmacies offer additional services, such as automatic refill reminders, with the most innovative ones provide remote consultations and online prescriptions (be cautious as laws on this matter vary from state to state).

Privacy

When it comes to certain types of drugs, online pharmacies become increasingly attractive to customers. Buying Viagra at a local drugstore may appear embarrassing for some people, and e-pharmacies provide a level of privacy when delivering your meds in ordinary looking packages. During the last 10 years, the number of ED drug prescriptions has tripled due to the associated stigma gradually fading away. Life-style drugs such as ED and PE pills make up an impressive portion of all drugs sold online.

Is it safe to use overseas online pharmacies today?

Despite the efforts made by states and international organizations, rogue pharmacies remain a notable and dangerous phenomenon today. Such pharmacies may sell counterfeit, potentially dangerous drugs, or violate the trade order for pharmaceutical products. However, independent experts note that legal online foreign pharmacies are safe and used by millions of people around the world. Their work should not be hindered at least for ethical reasons, as for many people this is the only source of affordable medicines. If the drug costs are becoming burdensome to your budget, using foreign e-pharmacies may be the right solution. However, it is important to practice caution and discernment when choosing a pharmacy by paying attention to obvious warning signs — lack of reliable contact information, prices that seem too good to be true, and selling prescription drugs without requiring a prescription.

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