Mail order pharmacy: Medicines only on prescription

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Reputable online pharmacies always require a prescription for prescription drugs

The mail order pharmacy market is booming, but not all providers are serious. In a recent press release, the IT industry association Bitkom mentions some factors that patients can use to orientate themselves when buying medication online. For example, reputable online pharmacies should always request that the prescription be sent by post for prescription medication. Patients must also be given telephone advice by pharmaceutical specialists on the hotline. At reputable online pharmacies, patients often received additional advice by email or fax.

Since the approval of online mail order sales of pharmacy-only medicines at the beginning of 2004, the number of approved online pharmacies has now risen to around 3,000 mail order pharmacies, of which around 80 percent have a website, reports the IT industry association. "More than 16 million Germans have already ordered over-the-counter or pharmacy and prescription-only medicines on the web," continued Bitkom. However, caution should also be exercised when buying medicines online, since dubious providers sometimes spread "counterfeit and unauthorized goods". However, according to the experts, these dubious providers can usually be identified relatively easily using a few simple features.

Health risk from counterfeit medicines The currently authorized mail-order pharmacies are fully listed by the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI). In addition, some foreign pharmacies in Europe also have a shipping permit for Germany, Bitkom says. In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, patients can independently get an idea of ​​the online pharmacies using a catalog of criteria from the IT industry association. For example, consumers should "become skeptical when prescription drugs are offered without a prescription," reports Bitkom. A mailing of the prescription is always necessary here. It is also worth taking a look at the imprint of the online pharmacies. If not all important information such as address, name of the responsible pharmacist, telephone number, supervisory authority and the responsible pharmacy chamber are listed, an order is not advisable. On the other hand, if the online pharmacy uses the DIMDI security logo to indicate an entry in the mail order pharmacy register, the IT industry association explained. By clicking on the logo, the consumer should get to the pharmacy registry entry.

Recognize reputable online pharmacies Mail order pharmacies are legally obliged to provide advice to customers by telephone, whereby the "advice hotline must be staffed with German-speaking pharmaceutical specialists", reports Bitkom. If not, consumers should be careful. Because in the online market there are also some dubious providers who try to make their money with counterfeit preparations. According to the IT industry association, "medications can be counterfeited in a variety of ways: Examples include incorrect dosages, falsified patient information leaflets, deliberately extended expiry dates or even an incorrect composition of the medication itself." Such counterfeiting can potentially be a considerable one for patients Health risk. Here, a look at the range of online pharmacies also provides information about their seriousness. If prescription drugs are offered for less than 50 percent of the manufacturer's price, this is illegal and consumers should never order from the appropriate mail-order pharmacies. However, the over-the-counter medications on the web can actually be a lot cheaper because they are not subject to any statutory price fixing, reports the IT industry association Bitkom. (fp)

Image: Friedrich Cubigsteltig /

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