Picture: Indianexpress When it comes to drugs bought online, you never know exactly what you’re getting

Online medicine buying certainly has its perks. It’s quick, you can do it from anywhere, it circumvents discussions with medical professionals, and with fewer overheads, it’s cheaper than shopping at regular pharmacies. So, e-commerce for medication makes sense… right?

But what if we told you there’s more to buying medicine online than you may realise – especially when those you purchase wouldn’t normally be sold without a prescription? Online stores that skip some of the prevailing regulations are not only illegal, but can be deadly.

However, unmanaged medication buying isn’t the only danger. When it comes to drugs bought online, you never know exactly what you’re getting.

Here’s what could go wrong:

The wrong drug

Unregulated medicine purchased online could contain the incorrect amount of the active ingredient, but it could also be the wrong active ingredient altogether. Some unregulated drugs are even cut with dangerous substances like rat poison.

Bad handling

Even authentic medicines can be a risk when acquired online.

Medicines that haven’t been manufactured, packaged, or stored correctly, could have expired, lost their effectiveness, or even become poisonous over time.

Confusing names

Many brands names have  foreign counterparts that look or sound so similar [that] consumers who have such prescriptions filled abroad may receive a drug with the wrong active ingredient”. For example, the USA’s prostate medication, Flomax, has the same name as an anti-inflammatory drug in Spain.

Untested ‘miracles’

Terminal patients are often desperate. They’ll try anything to stay alive and this can mean taking untested, experimental medicines – the kinds of substances that some online pharmacies market as miracle drugs. Doing so is not only dangerous to their health, but any bad press from uncontrolled use can also badly undermine the efforts of formal clinical trials.

Limited insight

Without professional medical advice, drugs can interact with other medications you might be taking, and have a negative effect based on your own medical history. These are the kinds of factors that trained medical professionals are able to pick up during a consultation.

Some online pharmacies ask customers to complete a questionnaire before they dispense medication, which creates the impression of authenticity, but this input often feeds into a computer programme, rather than an actual pharmacist.