Your Online Pharmacy Guide: Facts and Tricks

Table of Contents

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  1. Why to Buy Medicine Online?
  2. A Brief Survey on Online Pharmacy History. Part 1: Giants Eat Newcomers
  3. A Minute of Reflection: Avoiding a Prescription – Is It Risk or Benefit?
  4. A Brief Survey on Online Pharmacy History. Part 2: A Boom of E-commerce in Pharmacy
  5. Structure of the Internet Market of Online Pharmacies
  6. Saving 90% Buying Medicine Online? Yes, it is real.
  7. Different strokes for different folks: Why do Americans Buy Medicine in Canada?
  8. How to Save on Medicine Even More: Generic Products Alternative
  9. Types of Internet Pharmacies
  10. Top Products People Buy at Online Pharmacies
  11. Are the Generic Drugs Bought in Discount Pharmacies Real?

Have you ever been in pharmacy? It is not difficult to guess an answer – if you are not Robinson Crusoe living on an island, for sure, you was. But online pharmacy service can help even to modern Robinson in case he has Wi-Fi on the island.

Why to Buy Medicine Online?

Online shopping has become an essential part of the life of modern people. If, at the beginning, there were some doubts or biases, today most of people in technologically developed countries do shopping online as it saves their money and time.

Advantages of Online Pharmacies comparing to brick-and-mortar businesses:

  • Same quality at lower price

In Internet you can get a discount up to 90%

  • Promotions

You can get even more using special discounts as greeting bonuses, discount for purchasing over a certain amount, cumulative discounts etс.

  • Convenience

You can comfortably buy at your home 24/7.

  • Great choice

Most of online drugs shops offer wider range of medicine than you can buy at local pharmacy.

  • Relevant medical information

Many websites offer comprehensive information on your condition and drugs they offer to you and you may study it as long as you need.

  • Privacy

You do not need to blush standing in your local shop surrounded with your neighbors when buying a mean for a “delicate” problem.

You see, how easy today to order whatever you want with enormous profit by simple clicking. But, surprisingly, it was not always like this.

A Brief Survey on Online Pharmacy History. Part 1: Giants Eat Newcomers

medicine onlinePharmacy as a business sphere always was a bit conservative but, nevertheless, first online drugstores were started relatively early at the dawn of the era of e-commerce. The first attempts to open pure-play Web businesses in the field were undertaken in 1998 but they were lost in vain mainly because pharmacy industry interacts with security issues, so practice of following to the prescriptions and certain degree of mistrust had undermined the new coming players and they were forced to surrender to the will of recognized pharmacy monsters. Thus, one of the pioneers of the web market Seattle based owner of the website was acquired in 1999 by CVS, the largest US retailer.

All in all, 1999 became a revolutionary year for moving pharmacies online. Besides CVS challenge, a bunch of online shops were started almost at the same time: in US another pharmacy giant Wallgreens expanded their business to Internet; a first online shop in UK, was open; another leading community pharmacy LloydsPharmacy started selling in Internet; Dutch pharmacist Jacques Waterval together with German programmer Ralf Däinghaus established a first e-shop selling drugs in Europe.

Earlier development of e-commerce in pharmacy par excellence solved the problems of the selling companies but not of the consumers. The first online pharmacies had their aim in obtaining extra clientele without giving better prices to the customers. Especially tough the situation was for people in the countries with very strict legislation in terms of controlling online pharmacies to sell the medicine only according to the doctor’s prescriptions (e.g. USA or Germany). The customer’s budgets were double affected by paying for extra visit to a doctor and buying over-priced drugs at monopolist’s shops.

A Minute of Reflection: Avoiding a Prescription – Is It Risk or Benefit?

According to the legislation of a number of the countries (US is a first of them) it is absolutely illegal to re-import prescription drugs from another country. It sounds clear but… The matter is still contradictory and the subject of hot debates in media, official organizations and health control instances, as well as among the people in web.

From one side, it is the real danger for patients to choose their medicine independently as most of the people do not have proper qualification to evaluate all the risks and benefits of one or another medicine and to use relevant dosage. On the other hand, for some people with chronic diseases who have been using the same drugs (initially prescribed by their physicians) for many years it could be really cost effective to switch to an alternative source of supplying that might be an online pharmacy abroad. Many reputable online shops have their own physician to prescribe necessary medicine.

Another consideration: what is illegal in one country might be legitimate in another, is not it? So it is a question, how to treat a practice selling the goods to the foreigners if your own law does not prohibit it. The first online pharmaceutical shop which was forced to meet this tricky question neither more nor less than in the court was Dutch company DocMorris taken to European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the regional court of Frankfurt following an accusation of illegal practice by the German Association of Pharmacists.

German monopolists claimed that activity of a discounter from Netherlands on the territory of Germany is illegal because of restriction to sell the medicine without prescription inside the country. But, finally, after a long trial ECJ had considered permissible for non-German pharmacies to provide mail-order service giving discounts, as restriction of this is violation of the freedom of trade in EU. German Pharmacist was advised to be more competitive. This decision was really beneficial of EU customers who have now possibility to choose where to buy their medicine: in legitimate but expensive local apothecary or in also (from now) legitimate e-shop with great discounts.

A Brief Survey on Online Pharmacy History. Part 2: A Boom of E-commerce in Pharmacy

Starting from earlier 2000-s gradual increasing of online pharmacy, finally, caused a real breakthrough in this sphere. According to Wall Street Journal/Harris Online, already in 2006 80% of Americans preferred to buy imported drugs because they are cheap, can be obtained without prescription (that is in some cases not only an issue of paying to the doctor but also a shame for patients with such delicate problems as erectile dysfunctions or other sexual conditions) and can be bought not leaving their home in at time of day or night. The situation was slightly different, for example, in UK where since 2005 the practice of Internet prescriptions was considered legal that helped to development of inner e-commerce.

In early 2016, as evaluated Internet company in their report of January 2016, there were already approx. 30,000 – 35,000 websites selling prescription drugs, that includes website selling the medicine with payment on that URL or redirecting to others websites for transfer and does not include non-specialized third parties platforms as e.g., as well as websites that have multiply subdomains of the same domain name. Counting such amount of website does not mean the same number of marker players that are approximately 2000-3000 companies having extended networks of Internet spots. So at the moment, it is possible to say that Web market of medicine has ripened with the companies involved to the healthy competition.

Structure of the Internet Market of Online Pharmacies

The share of Internet purchasing by individuals has been growing year after year and promise to increase even more in next few years. Of course, mostly people of developed countries go shopping around in the Web. Here you can find some data on the top 10 countries where people buy drugs in online shops.

Table 1

CountryPopulation% of adult polulation buying medicine onlineWhere they mostly buy
UK65 millions12UK, EU, Canada
China1,390 millions11,8China, South Korea, Thailand
Norway5,33 millions10,5EU (Norway, Netherlands)
Finland5,54 million10,3EU (Finland, Netherlands)
South Korea51 million10South Korea, China, Thailand
Denmark5,71 million9,9EU (Denmark, Netherland)
Germany81 million9,4EU (Netherlands, Germany)
USA326 millions7,7US, Canada
Canada37 millions6,6Canada, UK, Australia
Japan126 millions5,8Japan, South Korea, China

You can see from above table that the most advanced people in terms of use Internet for their purchasing are in North Europe but the markets in such countries as Norway, Finland and Denmark are quite small. UK is a leader of using computer technologies for online shopping and, at the same time, they have developed structures of UK based online pharmacies that differs from the situation in Germany where customers have interest to buy online but do not have much possibility for shopping in own country. We are not going analyze here Eastern Market as it is a quite specific area with regulations different from Western countries legislations, especially China that can perfectly serve itself without need to go to other markets.

And, finally we see that the biggest market of medicine bought online is US followed with Canada though with significantly smaller market. It is interesting that Canada with quite small purchasing power just in terms of population (comparing to US) offer many possibility for the customers as it has many e-shops.

As it were, the customers now can choose online pharmacy according their financial preferences and in geographical location they like. Let us give more attentive look to the cost effectiveness of buying medicine online.

Saving 90% Buying Medicine Online? Yes, it is real.

When a price seems too good to be true do not worry: just except it as it is. In fact, many pure-play online pharmacies could offer 80-90% discount of prices of their brick-and-mortar competitors and even Internet Pharmacy Giants without being involved into any illegality just because of absolutely different logistics and price formation.

There are some factors that always affect the cost of real business that are not applicable to online business:

Table 2

FactorReal local businessOnline businessNotes
Purchase priceHighLowLocal businesses buy smaller quantities at high price but online pharmacy is able to have better price due to larger volumes bought in bulk
Facilities (for selling and storage)HighLowLocal drugstore should pay expensive rent and operating costs, as wells as buy trade equipment, while online businesses could minimize their costs having one large warehouse
AmenitiesHighNon applicableSmall pharmacy also works 24/7 but this service could cost them more because of salary issues; website’s services are completely automatized and do not involve many people to serve.

But this list is not exhaustive. If operational costs were the only reason, the price difference would not be so dramatic. There are several other causes that allow to many Web pharmacies give such impressive discounts. They are: legislation issues of certain countries, unique market situation in every place that mean also exclusive price policy, and a price difference between brand and generic drugs.

Different strokes for different folks: Why do Americans Buy Medicine in Canada?

Selling price is not in direct dependency of cost price as you might consider. It is often influenced by economic and even politic reasons. Let us look an example of US and we will see how legal issues can become a real burden for the citizens.

US have a monopoly healthcare system where involved insurers, pharmacy, and the government. The first two are interested in the prices fixed on the highest level, while the government finds it unnecessary to negotiate those prices. As a result, a pack of drugs for hepatitis could cost 1000$ per day.

Under these circumstances Americans are forced to rush into the arms of internet pharmacies abroad (local online shops keep the same fixed prices), although, as it was already said, it is considered illegal to buy prescription drugs outside the country and re-import them. Nevertheless, statistics says that about 1% of US citizens bought Rx online in Canada at least once. As to the over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, nothing could stop Americans to buy them abroad.

It is interesting that some Americans undertakes border crossing trips to buy medicine in local Canadian drugstores and even this helps them to save 25-50%. It is difficult to believe but brand drugs produced in US can cost in Canadian pharmacy 25% cheaper. And now, with development of e-commerce, people do not need to go themselves any more. They could purchase online with delivery to their address.

You might ask: Why Canada? Well, it is logically. First of all, Canada is neighboring country to US that means better logistics and shorter delivery time. Another reason, Canada is a country with proper regulation of pharmaceutical companies and you do not need to worry about safety. Health Canada control the quality of the domestic goods, as well as any new drugs imported to the country that also mandatory for inspection.

How to Save on Medicine Even More: Generic Products Alternative

viagra and otherGeneric drugs are the substances identical to the brand products but not bear their name. “Identical” means they have same chemical composition, dosage, strength and intended use. Generic drug can be sold under their chemical name and, mostly, they are not promoted that makes them cost saving alternative to the brand ones. Some generic medicine can have own name given by manufacture. Experienced pharmacist always know which of generic drugs is totally coincides to the original composition.

The production of generic drugs are absolutely legal as a patent for any brand medicine is limited to 20 years, and when it is expired everyone can produce the equivalent of the drug. Patent owners normally spend much money to extend their rights for solo using of the product, such as slight changes in formulation and some other means and all those measures lead to price increasing.

Cheaper prices of generics are provided with fewer expenses for advertising and supporting the brand, and also with lower margins that many manufactures found acceptable while the cost of the brand product often is over-priced.

One of the services offered with online pharmacies is to find an adequate replacement to the brand drug without compromising quality. So, Canadian online shops can find high quality analogs not only on Canadian market but also from reliable producers in other countries as UK, some countries of EU, New Zealand and Australia. Some pharmacies also investigate possibilities on other markets as Indian or East Europe but for many customers it remains contradictory whether to trust them. There are many creadible suppliers in those countries too but the drugs before reaching the consumer should be approved by controlling organizations as FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in USA and Health Canada in Canada.

The list of generic medicine is long and seems can never be finished as it continue developing. It covers everything from antibiotics and painkillers to the so called life style products as weight loss medicine, erectile dysfunction drugs, hair loss medicine etc.

Read also more about Generic Drugs in this article:

Types of Internet Pharmacies

There are several types of internet shops for selling medicine and they can be splitted based on the mode of operation and market segment. First of all online pharmacies can be classified as:

  1. Extension of real brick-and-mortar business to the Web.
  2. Pure-play Internet companies that don’t have any facilities in real worlds except warehouses.
  3. Websites providing search among the proposals of partner’s pharmacies.

This classification does not concern any fake and rogue sites that do not relate to honest business. Depending on range of products online pharmacies can be splitted into the two main categories:

  1. Universal shops that sell everything as prescription drugs, OTC drugs beauty items etc.
  2. Specialized internet shops that have chosen a limited market segment or supply health products for special purposes as ED drugs, dietary supplement etc.

The both approaches have their advantage. The website of first type can suggest a wide range that customer are able to buy whatever they need in one spot but using this type of shop you always have to check the prices as they can be low for some items but quite costly for others. Specialized interned pharmacies are limited with their list of products but they do really good job on pricing and always can offer better discounts and bonuses for their customers.

Top Products People Buy at Online Pharmacies

As in any commercial field, there are favorites and losers on the medicine market. But Internet sales of drugs have some specific features. According to unofficial statistics gathered in Web, people buy at online pharmacies:

  • the most expensive drugs, as they seeking for cost savings;
  • drugs they found inconvenient or embarrassing to buy in a drugstore;
  • prescription drugs, when they do not have a prescription and do not want to get it.

Below list of the top 6 drugs bought in online pharmacies just confirms this statement:

We easily can prolong above list with others psychostimulants, ED drugs, as well as with some kinds of prescription antibiotics. While some customers prefer to buy brand named drugs with discounts, others look for even greater discounts and purchase generics. Here you can find a cost comparison for top 3 of internet best sellers, when bought at different sources.

Popular Medicine Prices comparison: US, Canada – Brand and Generic

Table 3

Drug Name

Price for Brand Product at CVS, $/pill

Price for Brand Product at Canadian Pharmacies , $

Price for Generic Product at Canadian Pharmacies, $

Prozac 20mg,

30 pills

235.1047.20 – 163

15 – 33

Vicodin 10 mg (Valium)


Viagra 25 mg826.82 per 30 pcs

(27,5 per pill)

7.75 – 20 per pill

1 – 4 per pill

Are the Generic Drugs Bought in Discount Pharmacies Real?

For sure they are. But people still asking dumbfounded with unbelievably low price. But, first of all, we should clarify, what means “real”. Reality is that there are many manufacturers worldwide that produced the same things but can offer different price. And all of them real and suggest real medicine without promotion you pay buying brand medicine. The aim of online pharmacies is to research market and found for the customers the better proposals from trusted producers.

Other thing, that as in any business you can meet with cheating but it is already can be classified as a crime and does not relate to reputable online drug shops. To decline all the good offers just because of a few rogues it is the same as not to use internet banking as there are some hackers in the Net. - Your Canadian Pharmacy with great bonuses!