FDA guidelines distinguishes between OTC products and that which requires a prescription. But have we become complacent about this important health issue?
Many people take advantage of the internet to purchase items online, including medicines. Some people like to buy medicines like to treat ED, lower cholesterol lowering medication and supplements cheaply online. Unfortunately, they do this without a GP’s prescription or the advice of a pharmacist. And they tend to buy from unregistered pharmacies. This is potentially unsafe – and the FDA makes a clear distinction between OTC type drugs and that which requires a prescription.
Doctor’s Supervision is Important
A prescription is very important because the doctor will determine what medicine is suitable for your problem and the dosage. He/she will consider any side effects and any adverse interactions with other medications before deciding on which medicine to prescribe. This will ensure that you are safe. Should you react to the medicine you can go back and complain and the doctor will know what to do.
Buying without a prescription puts you in danger because you have no guidance for dosage and you cannot avoid interactions with other medications. Should you react adversely, the doctor will not be aware of what medication you are taking. This can be potentially fatal.
A Registered Pharmacy Always Asks for a Prescription
If you have a chronic illness, you spend a lot of money on your medicines every month. It is therefore tempting to try and get your medicines from online pharmacies who sell them at discounted prices. It is true that buying online is generally cheaper than buying from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy which has high overheads. Unfortunately, there are rogue pharmacies that will not ask you for a prescription. Such pharmacies will sell you unauthorised medicines which can harm your health. The medicines may be diluted or they may contain ingredients that will not control your symptoms. That is a great risk!
The one sure sign of a genuine registered pharmacy is the request for a prescription. But what if the online pharmacy is bogus but still asks for prescription? You are still at risk. Check the registration of that pharmacy with the government registration board. Also check that the pharmacy has a real address. Be satisfied with the pharmacy’s registration before you can upload your prescription.
The PharmEasy Example – Prescriptions are important:
Avoiding fake or unregistered pharmacies online is really important. Many people use services like PharmEasy, which is an online healthcare and medicine delivery platform that connects consumers to registered pharmacies in more than 1,000 cities and towns all over India. Only registered pharmacies are linked to PharmEasy where strictly authorized medicines are listed. An online outfit like this typically has a pharmacist available at all times to answer questions and to give advice. They insist on a prescription for all controlled medicines. Because of the online business model, medicines are definitely more affordable than when purchased from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy.
How it works in practice:
The PharmEasy website has a facility for uploading your prescription. They then deliver the right medicine. If you do not have a doctor’s prescription, and you are too busy to visit a doctor, you can get a phone consultation with one of their doctors who will understand your problem by asking a number of questions. The doctor will ask you about other medicines that you are taking in order to determine if there is potential for interactions. Then he writes out a prescription. That way you get the right medication at the right dosage for you. The support team then facilitates the delivery of that medicine fast and without charge.
To understand how PharmEasy works to provide lawful and registered medicine, one has to understand the context of challenges in India: they struggle a lot with literacy and people who get caught out online operators who sell fake medicines from “online pharmacies”. Ordinary people struggle to vet their suppliers and face health risks associated with fake or cheap medicines. As a powerful counter measure, they focus on helping people to avoid illegal online pharmacies: by connecting them to local registered/licensed pharmacies in India and providing the data/AI interface for traditional pharmacies that are still offline.
Online Consultation Has Limitations
However, there is a limit to what the online doctor can prescribe. He/she cannot prescribe drugs that require an in-person examination. He/she can only prescribe antibiotics, antifungals, allergy medicines, oral contraceptives, high blood pressure medicines, decongestant nasal sprays, and cholesterol lowering drugs. This means that if you have a serious illness and you have not yet seen a doctor, you are wise to go a see your doctor for a proper examination and prescription.