Your Online Drugstore
By Archana Khambekar
Pharmacies have set up shop in cyberspace to serve customers
electronically, a convenience that could save you a trip to the
neighborhood drugstore. You can now order your medications online with a
click of the mouse and have them delivered right to your doorstep.
How Cyber-Pharmacies Operate
In order to take advantage of this service you need to establish an account
with the online drugstore. By logging into your account, you can track
orders, refill prescriptions, send and receive messages and update your
personal data. The first time you order medications you are asked to create
a health profile of existing medical conditions, known drug allergies and
medicines that you may currently be taking. This safety measure alerts the
pharmacist to potential drug interactions or other health risks.
the prescription itself, you can have your doctor call it in;
alternatively, you can mail or fax it to the pharmacy. You can transfer a prescription from your current drugstore by
furnishing the pharmacy's name and phone number. On processing your
prescription the pharmacy notifies you via an email. It is pertinent to
mention here that unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, online
pharmacies take longer to process a prescription. If the prescription has
been mailed, you have to allow additional time for the pharmacy to receive
it. As a returning customer of the pharmacy, it takes just a few clicks to
order a refill since the prescription information is already in place. If
you are wondering about the cost of this convenience, some cyber-pharmacies
do not charge for standard deliveries of prescription items. Delivery time
ranges from three to five business days. If you prefer that medications be
shipped overnight, that can be done too, but at an extra charge.
In addition to medicines, online drugstores stock a range of
over-the-counter health aids, personal care items and beauty products for
the one-stop shopper. Furthermore, in a bid to provide a better shopping
experience pharmacies have added perks such as a personal shopping list of
your favorite or often used products, e-mail reminders of refills and
rewarding customers with free gifts and bonus points redeemable at
airlines, car rental agencies, hotels etc.
Some e-pharmacies are more than cyber counters dispensing medicines; they
are a valuable source of information for the health conscious customer.
They have added an "Ask the Pharmacist" feature to enable you to consult
their licensed pharmacist about your medication concerns. A visit to these
sites will give you an idea about their service and interactive tools.
Drugstore.com: In addition to fulfilling your
needs for health and wellness products, you have access to an A to Z drug
index listing medications, directions for their use, known side effects and
necessary precautions. The comprehensive set of FAQ's make this an ideal
pharmacy for the first-time shopper.
PlanetRx.com: An easy to navigate pharmacy that
has an inventory of prescription and OTC medications, supplements and
medical supplies, plus click rewards for frequent shoppers. The site links
you to health channels for in-depth information on specific diseases,
medications and alternative treatments.
Rx.com: Behind the simple interface is a pharmacy that
efficiently delivers medications, healthcare products and provides quality
content. The reference desk brings you health guides, drug factsheets and
an index of natural remedies. The site also features a health magazine that
you can read online.
A Prescription for Safety
The corner drugstore is still the logical place to shop for your medication
needs in emergencies or when you cannot wait for mail deliveries. Online drugstores undoubtedly render a useful service, particularly for
chronic sufferers who have to make multiple trips for refills or for
customers who live some distance away from their pharmacies. Nevertheless,
there are some red flags that you need to be vigilant about before you log
in to fill in your prescription.
The Web provides anonymity to unscrupulous
individuals to set up seemingly professional and legitimate outlets for
their illegal products or unethical practices. Some dubious sites based in
foreign countries lure customers by selling prescription drugs at prices
cheaper than in the domestic market. Patients who buy medicines from such
sites expose themselves to the risk of dangerous side effects from drugs
that could be contaminated, past their date of expiration, or not approved
for use in the United States. Hence the importance of being a cautious
consumer cannot be emphasized enough. To protect yourself when buying your
health products online here are some safety guidelines that you should follow:
In addition to these precautionary steps, carefully peruse the pharmacy's
policies on insurance coverage, product returns, and confidentiality of
- Shop with sites affiliated with reputed drugstore chains such as cvs.com
or drugstore.com, which is associated with Rite Aid.
- Find out if the pharmacy is certified by the National Association of
Boards of Pharmacy. The association has a "Verified
Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites" certification program that requires
compliance with stringent standards. Sites that meet their requirements
bear the VIPPS seal.
- Verify that the online pharmacy is a licensed pharmacy in your state or
that it is licensed to deliver medications to residents of your state.
- Steer clear of sites that do not require a prescription or sell
prescription medicines on the basis of an online questionnaire purportedly
reviewed by their physician. According to the American Medical Association
dispensing drugs on the premise of a cursory questionnaire is hazardous and
unethical. By avoiding a visit to the doctor's office you are compromising
your health, as a physical examination is advisable for an accurate
- Avoid sites that do not provide access to a registered pharmacist to
answer your questions.
- Do not buy medicines from sites that do not have an U.S. address and
phone number that customers can contact.
- Be wary of sites that advertise miracle cures or remedies that are
Internet pharmacies often advertise discounts and promotions on products
and promise to save you money on your prescription costs. As for how they
compare with your traditional pharmacy, it cannot be conclusively said that
purchasing drugs online is cheaper. While it may cost less to buy some
medicines at cyber-pharmacies, your local drugstore may offer a better
bargain for other medications. But it takes less effort to surf over to a
couple e-pharmacies to find the lowest price. For an objective evaluation
of online drugstores on a variety of criteria from cost comparison, ease of
navigation to health resources, stop over at the e-commerce authority site
will also learn from the experiences of other e-pharmacy customers. Be an
informed consumer when you pay a visit to your drugstore on the Web.
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Archana Khambekar is a freelance writer of informative articles on the
everyday life applications of Internet technology. She is
also a Contributing Editor at Suite101.com and can be reached at