The internet has transformed the way we shop, and more than 50% of Britons now purchase their clothes, groceries, holidays and electronic devices on the World Wide Web, but when it comes to buying pain medication online – is it safe?

Buying prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs from a registered online pharmacy is fast, affordable, and extremely convenient for those of us with a busy lifestyle, and as a result, an estimated one in seven people in the UK now shop for their medicines online, but in the virtual world, it can be difficult to distinguish between a registered UK pharmacy and a commercial website selling fake drugs.

Many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have been targeted by sophisticated counterfeiters over the years, which has flooded the market with dangerous and potentially lethal fake drugs, so how do we know that the Viagra, Co-Dydramol, Propecia, Weight Loss Tablets and Contraceptive Pills that we buy online are real?

Well, there are certain things to look out for when shopping online for pain medication and other prescription drugs, and both the NHS and the FDA have issued a list of guidelines to help shoppers find a registered online pharmacy where they can purchase genuine branded medications safely, from the comfort of their own home.

Firstly, you should check that you are shopping from a trustworthy website. A reputable UK registered online pharmacy will:

  • Be located in the United Kingdom
  • Be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
  • Display he Green Cross Badge along with their Registration Number (which you can authenticate online)
  • Be approved by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA)
  • Provide a contact address, telephone number and email – all of which should be UK based
  • Display a safe shopping SSL certificate such as DigiCert

Once you have established all of the above and are confident that the online pharmacy is ‘real’ and registered with the GPhC, the next questions you should ask are:

  • Is there are UK registered prescriber available to discuss your condition?
  • Do you need to complete an online consultation before receiving prescription medication?
  • Are your medicines purchased directly from the manufacturer?
  • Are your medicines genuine branded goods?
  • Can you read reviews from previous customers?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of the above, you should abandon your purchase and shop for your prescription medicines elsewhere. All UK registered online pharmacies will ask you to complete an online questionnaire before prescribing any medication, a prescriber will always be available (during office hours) to answer your questions, and they will only issue genuine branded medicines.

Other things that should make you suspicious include:

  • Incredibly low prices – You really do get what you pay for when it comes to branded medicines
  • No contact number or address
  • Offers to buy prescription only medicines without a prescription
  • Email offers
  • Unbranded medication

As one might expect, it is those drugs that many of us are embarrassed to talk about that are most commonly counterfeited, with Erectile Dysfunction Tablets such as Cialis and Levitra, Morning After Pills such as ellaOne and Levonelle, and Weight Loss Tablets such as Xenical widely available on the black market.

That said, popular painkillers and analgesics such as Co-Dydramol, which is commonly used to treat headaches, menstrual pains, toothache, post-operative pain and reduce fever, could also be copied by counterfeiting gangs, and so it is imperative that online shoppers do their homework before buying co dydramol online.