Buying medicines online

The number of online pharmacies is growing rapidly. However, it’s important to remember that a prescription from a doctor is needed for prescription-only medicines, which include medications used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). If a Web site sells a prescription medicine without requiring a prescription —or after an online survey or consultation with a remotely located doctor—it could mean the medicine being sold is counterfeit (fake).(1) Counterfeit medicines may be unsafe to use and could put your health at risk.(2)

Dangerous to your health

Counterfeit medications have been found to contain a range of substances, including both ineffective and toxic ingredients. Taking counterfeit medications can result in treatment failure or even death.(2)
You should never assume that any medicine bought without a doctor’s prescription is safe—even if it appears to improve your condition.

Looks can be deceiving

It can be difficult to tell whether or not the drugs you purchase online are counterfeit. Counterfeiters are very good at copying the packaging and appearance of legitimate drugs.
Sometimes even experts can’t confirm whether a product bought online is legitimate until they’ve conducted chemical analyses. (3) This means that many counterfeit drugs may look legitimate, even when they are not.(1,3)

Tips to minimize your risk

  • Avoid any Web sites that offer to sell prescription medicines without requiring a prescription, or after a short online survey or consultation with a remotely located doctor (1)
  • Be cautious of Web sites that offer drugs at a price that’s ”too good to be true”(3)
  • Make sure that the online pharmacy provides a street address, telephone number, and a way to contact a pharmacist (1)
  • Always inform your healthcare providers about all medicines you are taking so they can monitor your condition

Remember, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist for help—they are the best people to help you assess the safety of your medications.


  1. Drugs News. Buying drugs online—buyer beware. http://www.
  2. World Health Organization. Medicines: spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit (SFFC) medicines.
  3. The Partnership for Safe Medicines. L.E.A.D.E.R.’s guide for pharmacists.