Opinion – Robert Nicholson
On the EDtreatment.com website, we talk about the risks of using online pharmacies.
The biggest risk is fraud. Many online pharmacies are scams. They may charge your credit card and not send you anything, or they may ship you counterfeit medications that have no medicinal value. (The World Health Organization estimates that more that half the medications sold online are counterfeit!)
To avoid these problems, it’s important to verify the online pharmacy:
- Make sure they are complying with applicable laws, like requiring a prescription from your doctor, and having an on-call pharmacist you can talk with. Companies that break these laws are not legitimate.
- Make sure they have a valid business address in your country. NEVER deal with pharmacies outside your country!
- Most countries also have an official registry where you can check to see if the pharmacy is licensed, so check the list.
I recently decided to switch my prescriptions to the Amazon Pharmacy. Amazon is certainly a large, well known company doing business in my country, and they are a licensed pharmacy. The prices were a little lower than my local pharmacy, and getting my prescriptions delivered saves me a trip.
The first month things went smoothly, and I received my order as expected. I was a little surprised that they simply left the order at the front door, like a shipment of bath towels! That does sound like a safe way to handle prescription medications. Yes, I could have it delivered to an Amazon Locker, but then I would need to make a trip to pick it up.
But the second month, the order did not arrive as scheduled. I checked the online status, and it simply said “delayed.” There was no indication of WHY it was delayed, or when it would arrive.
I was concerned because I had ordered a prescription heart medication. I left the order until the last minute, so I only had a one-day supply left.
I opened the chat window on the Amazon Pharmacy website and talked with a support rep. I explained that my order was delayed, and that I needed the medication. She said she would check the status. After a few minutes she returned and said that the shipping people weren’t answering the phone, and then she gave me the phone number to call them directly.
I was pretty shocked about the cavalier attitude toward my prescription. I said that, since she couldn’t tell me what had happened to my order, or when it would arrive, I would like them to overnight a replacement.
She said they could not do that, so I asked to talk to a supervisor.
I repeated the conversation with the supervisor, and she also told me they had no mechanism to overnight a replacement order. She said she could submit a new order, which I would get in four days. She once again gave me the number of the shipping department.
I called the shipping department, and spoke to a woman who asked for my order number, which I provided. After a few minutes, she came back on the line and said that their system does not show pharmacy orders, so she had no way of finding my order status.
In other words, the pharmacy department cannot tell me the order status, the shipping department cannot tell me the order status, and there is no mechanism in place for replacing missing orders.
(I just checked my online order status, and it now says it will be delivered by 11:00 PM tonight.)
Now to put this in perspective, I’m going to relate a story about my local CVS. A couple of years ago, I went to pick up a prescription, and they didn’t have it. The pharmacist apologized and said they were out of that medication and I should have been called. In other words, they messed up.
So the pharmacist called another store and verified that they had the medication in stock. She told me I could drive to that store and get it immediately, or I could come back to my local CVS the next day and get it. In other words, she acknowledged the mistake, apologized, and did her best to fix it.
If you are in the pharmacy business, people are trusting their health to you. A pharmacist needs to take that responsibility seriously, and clearly Amazon doesn’t.
I’ll be switching my prescriptions back to my local pharmacy – and so should you!