Every year, Canadians save millions of dollars by ordering their prescriptions from online pharmacies. However, it is not always easy to source legitimate pharmacies amongst the wealth of services available. Getting your medications cheaper is always good but only if they are exactly the drugs you need and not a cheap imitation.

Here we set out 10 things you should know before you start using an online pharmacy:

  1. What is an online pharmacy and how does it work?

In simple terms, an online pharmacy is exactly the same as a drugstore but it is internet-based. Because these virtual pharmacies don’t have any physical premises and don’t have to employ as many staff, they can keep their costs down. Online drugstores are also able to service a large number of customers all over the world, from one central location.

  1. Not every online pharmacy is the same

The cost of prescription medications are very high in Canada, leading to many people seeking savings from buying online. However, there are literally thousands of options available to you and although many online pharmacies are completely legal and above board; the majority are not.

An illegal pharmacy will not necessarily comply with relevant laws and regulations and they are unlikely to have the specialist training required to ensure the correct product is dispatched. Although the meds listed by illegal pharmacies will have an attractive price, the risk is generally much too high to be worth taking.

  1. Protecting consumers buying from online pharmacies

One of the most important reasons for ensuring you only order from a legal pharmacy is that there is no recourse if the drugs are incorrect or if you should have any adverse reaction to them. Medications prescribed by a fully-qualified physician should only ever be filled by an appropriately licensed pharmacist. The best way to make sure you are protected from unpleasant or potentially serious side-effects from prescription meds is to ensure the online pharmacist has all the necessary licenses in place.

  1. Make sure you don’t get in trouble with the law

There are some practices relating to online pharmacies that are without doubt illegal and you could face severe penalties for including:

  • Buying controlled substances without a licensed physician’s prescription, for example narcotic painkillers, sedatives, sleeping pills, stimulants and steroids
  • Importing medications from an online pharmacy located overseas requires full disclosure for customs. Many illegal pharmacies deliberately conceal shipments in attempts to avoid this process which can make you personally liable also
  • Purchasing meds that are approved in other countries but not in Canada
  • When buying prescription meds from other countries, it is necessary to have a prescription written by a physician residing and practicing in the same country as well as one issued to you at home
  1. What is definitely legal?

The way to find out the legal online pharmacies in Canada is by checking with the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. CIPA is responsible for issuing licenses and certificates to both online and physical pharmacies in Canada and those displaying the association’s logo are regarded as legal entities. It is definitely legal to obtain meds from an online pharmacy with a prescription from a Canadian doctor or in addition to one obtained in another country for overseas patients.

  1. How Canadian online pharmacies are different

The majority of legal Canadian online pharmacies follow the same practices as those in America. For this reason, it is not always necessary for Americans to obtain another prescription from a Canadian doctor in order to buy meds online. However, this does not include substances that are controlled in the US. Another reason it is worth verifying a Canadian online pharmacy with CIPA before ordering is that many actually operate outside of the country while creating the impression they are based in Canada.

  1. What the research says about online pharmacies

Research relating to online pharmacies conducted in the US shows that 96.7% of them are “rogue” which means they do not comply with federal law. One report by the National Bureau of Economic Research was compiled after samples of the five most commonly purchased meds were ordered from thousands of online pharmacies. The meds included Lipitor, Viagra, Celebrex, Zoloft and Nexium and some of the report’s findings include:

  • 90% of Canadian online pharmacies and 67% of those based overseas required prescription verification
  • 10% of drug samples were not what was ordered
  • Out of the 90% of correct drug samples, 100% were delivered by certified pharmacies in America, 100% from Canada and 89% from uncertified sources
  • Of all the fraudulent prescriptions that were delivered by online pharmacies, 100% were for Viagra
  • Some Canadian pharmacies offer meds at up to 50% cheaper than those offered in the US
  1. There are security concerns with other countries’ online pharmacies

One of the main concerns about purchasing drugs from online pharmacies based overseas is that regulations are often much more lax than those in Canada and America. This gives rogue pharmacists license to legitimately get away with distributing illegal drugs without attracting attention to their activities. Although the allure of buying drugs at significant discounts from other countries, the risks are considerable making it a false economy.

  1. Guidelines for safely purchasing drugs online

Here are some guidelines for safely buying prescription meds online:

  • Look for CIPA certification
  • Cross check with CIPA on their website
  • Don’t purchase meds from a site that doesn’t require a prescription
  • Check privacy and security policies as illegal pharmacies are known to sell-on personal information
  • Check for a physical address and a landline phone number, call them and speak to a pharmacist
  1. How to find the best and avoid the worst

To make things much easier, if you are looking for a legitimate online pharmacist, you can check Canadian pharmacy reviews and see what others have to say. You’ll find out about licensing and certification ahead of making your purchase so that you are sure to receive the correct drugs. It is never advisable to take any chances with prescription medications and making the necessary checks before you place an order can save significant problems further down the line.

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