Buying medicines over the internet

Buying medicines over the internet from the comfort of your own home may sound appealing. But, how safe is it?

Many websites selling medicines are legitimate businesses. However, many are not. Many websites are ‘fake’ sites, and many sell out-of-date, poor quality, contaminated or even fake medicines. Sorting out the ‘good’ sites from the ‘bad’ ones isn't always easy. If you decide to buy medicines online, here are a few hints to point you in the right direction.

Be wary of going it alone

No medicine is 100% safe. Buying an unfamiliar medicine over the internet without being able to talk to a pharmacist puts you at risk of taking a medicine that is not suitable for you, has undesirable side effects, or interacts with your other medicines.

Avoid using overseas websites

Avoid using overseas websites. Medicines bought overseas may have different ingredients from the brand sold in Australia, even if the brand name is similar. Overseas medicines may not meet Australia's strict quality and safety standards. It is also illegal for some medicines to be brought into Australia by post.

Never buy medicines from a website that does not give its full postal address. It could be a fake site. The site should also provide a telephone number so you can contact them if there is a problem.

In Australia, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidises the cost of most prescription medicines (see ‘The cost of your medicines’). This means that most prescription medicines cost substantially less here than overseas.

Avoid sites that don’t require a prescription

If you buy prescription medicines from online pharmacies, buy only from sites that ask you to produce a valid prescription from a doctor. Never buy from sites that sell medicines without a prescription, or issue you with a prescription following an online consultation of some sort.

Read the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) advice about buying medicines over the internet and from overseas.

Beware of wild claims

Beware of sites that offer revolutionary, new or miracle cures, or cures whose effectiveness is guaranteed. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Download our fact sheet: Using the internet to find reliable health information

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