Risks of buying medicines over the internet

The safest way to get medicines is from a pharmacist. It is important to take great care when buying medicines over the internet, particularly if the medicine would normally only be available from a pharmacy. If you buy medicines over the internet, you may be putting yourself at serious risk of harm.

Buying medicines over the internet

Many websites selling medicines via the internet originate from outside the UK and are not regulated by UK authorities. Buying prescription-only medicines from unauthorised sources significantly increases the risk of getting substandard or fake medicines.

If you get medicines without consulting with an appropriate healthcare professional, you risk being supplied with medicines that are not safe or not suitable for you to use.

Medicines bought online may not meet UK regulatory and quality standards.

Logo for selling medicines online

From 1 July 2015, anybody in the UK selling medicines online to the general public needs to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and to be on the MHRA’s list of UK registered online retail sellers.

They also need to display on every page of their website offering medicines for sale, the new European common logo which is registered to the seller. The registered EU common logo will contain a hyperlink to their entry in the MHRA’s list of registered online sellers

Additional information on the new logo and its use is available on the GOV.UK website.

Prescription-only medicines

Prescription-only medicines should only be taken in consultation with a healthcare professional. This is particularly important when you use different medicines at the same time, because interactions between medicines may cause side effects.

If you buy prescription-only medicines over the internet:

  • they may not have been prescribed by a healthcare professional
  • there may not be checks and controls on the quality and effectiveness of medicines supplied
  • there may be no legal recourse in the event of a problem

Remember, if you acquire medicine from an unregulated website, you simply don’t know what you are taking and you do not know what effect these drugs may have on your health.

More information on the risks of buying medicines over the internet can be found on the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website:

Information on the Medicines Regulatory Group at the Department of Health (DOH) can be found on its website:

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