It is arguable whether or not medicine has been one of the fields that has been quickest to embrace new technologies. It is difficult to say that medicine hasn’t benefited from the association, though. Nowadays, with a credit card and the right information, anyone can order medications ranging from birth control patches to pain medications online. The Internet has made obtaining drugs such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and pain medications online a relatively simple, painless process. However, on the Internet more than any place in the world, the words “caveat emptor” apply. As the Food and Drug Administration has warned in the past, there are many ways that an Internet-based pharmacy can bypass various regulations set in place for consumer protection.
One problem that is still relatively widespread among Internet-based pharmacies is the lack of a system in place to check for prescriptions. While this can make purchasing things like pain medications online much simpler, they present other problems. If there is no way to counter-check a prescription against the details of the order, an online pharmacy can easily make a mistake and send the right medication in the wrong doses. This can be a major problem if the condition requires a very specific, controlled amount to be introduced into the patient’s body. Another problem is that if just anyone can order them, then it is possible that orders are being placed not by patients who need them, but by people who have developed an addiction for certain drugs. Pain killers and some antidepressants are among the many medications sold online that can be habit-forming.
Another problem lies in the possibility of the site being a well-designed fraud. There have been a few incidents that have come to the attention of the FDA where an online pharmacy sent drugs that were generic, instead of the prescriptions ones the customer ordered. While the two were chemically no different from one another, the generic ones were significantly lower in market price. The websites were reported to have charged consumers the price of the brand-name prescription drug, rather than the price of the generic medications delivered. On rare occasions, there have also been reports of small-time online pharmacies offering cheap prices even on brand-name drugs, but the medications are foreign in origin and have not been tested thoroughly for public health and potential side effects.
Delivery problems are also a cause of concern. Most of the better online pharmacies have systems in place that allow consumers to keep track of the delivery progress of their orders. Others provide their customers with the tracking information needed, such as the tracking number and the carrier. However, some of the more disreputable sites don’t provide this information, leaving the customers guessing on where their orders went. In more extreme cases, there is no contact information on the online pharmacy, so the customer has no way of asking anyone for help in tracking down orders or having it shipped out again, if the initial order was lost in transit.