Buying medicines online

How safe is online shopping for medicines? Find out more.


How safe is online shopping for medicines?

Buying medicines online from the comfort of your own home may sound like a good idea. But buying medicine on the internet can put you at risk. This is because:

  • you are not able to talk to a pharmacist or your normal doctor
  • the medicine might not be right for you
  • it could have side effects or interact with another medicine you’re taking.

Make sure you tell your health professional about all the medicines you take. 

No medicine is 100% safe.

You can trust many websites that sell medicines, but not others.

Some websites sell out-of-date, low-quality medicines that may not have the right ingredients. Sorting out the ‘good’ sites from the ‘bad’ ones isn't always easy.

If you choose to buy medicines online, read on to know what to look for.

Online pharmacies

If you are thinking of buying medicines online, look for the website pages called ‘About us’ or ‘FAQs’. FAQs stands for frequently asked questions. These pages should give you more information about the site you are buying from.

A reliable website should have:

  • a real physical address (in Australia is best)
  • an email address
  • a working telephone number
  • details about who runs the online pharmacy. For example there should be a company name and Australian Company Number.

Check for online reviews from other customers. See if there are any alerts or complaints.

A trusted Australian online pharmacy will:

  • probably have a web address that ends in
  • ask you to send them a prescription from a doctor or health professional. They will need to see this before they will send your medicine to you
  • give details of Quality Care Pharmacy Program accreditation or registration with a state Pharmacy Council
  • give a phone number for you to talk to a pharmacist within business hours
  • give different prices for each medicine. These prices depend on the kind of prescription or benefits you have under the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) system.

Find out more about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Buying from overseas websites

There are reasons to be careful of overseas websites:

  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) does not regulate overseas websites. The products sold on overseas sites may not meet Australian safety and quality standards.
  • You may not be able to get help, advice or warnings about medicines.Trusted overseas pharmacies will ask for a prescription but your Australian prescription may not be valid.
  • Medicines from these sites may have different ingredients from medicines sold in Australia, even if the brand is the same.
  • It is against the law to order some medicines or medical devices into Australia by mail:
    • your parcel could be seized
    • you could lose your money
    • you could get a fine
    • you could go to jail.

Find out more about importing medicines

Sites that don’t ask for a prescription

Any site that sends you prescription medicines without first receiving a prescription from a doctor is breaking Australian law.

Never buy from sites that sell prescription medicines without a prescription.

These will not be trusted pharmacies and buying from them is a serious risk.

Buying non-prescription medicines from these sites can also be risky.

Claims that are too good to be true

Be careful of wild claims. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

With medicines, be careful of prices that are much cheaper than you expect. Be careful if the website says that its medicines are better or stronger than what you can buy in Australia.

For complementary medicines, ‘natural’ or herbal products:

  • Be careful of wild claims or ‘miracle cures’.
  • Some of these products are not legal to sell in Australia. This is because they are not safe and can cause health problems for people who take them.

The TGA issues warnings about many of these products every year.

Check the Therapeutic Goods Administration's Safety Alerts

Unregulated medicines can have serious risks

Medicines from overseas that are not regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) can have serious risks. They may:

  • have no active ingredients
  • have the wrong amount of an active ingredient. This means they might be too weak to help you, or strong enough to harm you
  • have ingredients that can harm you
  • have hidden or dangerous ingredients
  • be past their use-by date.

The TGA has a very good system for making sure medicines you can buy in Australia are safe and good quality.

Find out more about how medicines are approved for use in Australia

Learn more

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