How buying medication online can hurt your health and wallet

NPS Medcinewise has warned Aussies over the danger of buying medication online. Source: Getty

As technology evolves, more people are using the internet to purchase things they once needed to buy from a shop. From clothes to groceries, there’s no denying the web has made it easier for many Aussies. Despite this, NPS Medcinewise – an independent, not-for-profit health organisation – is warning Australians to beware of purchasing medication online.

While it can be tempting to self-diagnose and order medicines over the internet, the organisation warns that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“The risk with buying medicines online is your self-diagnosis may be wrong, the medicine you purchase may not be suitable for you, and it might interact with other medicines you may already be taking,” NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris said.

Some websites that sell medicine online are actually legitimate businesses, but it can be difficult for Australians to tell the difference between a trustworthy and websites that are not regulated.

“Many others are not legitimate and are selling out-of-date, poor quality, contaminated or even fake medicines that put your health at risk,” Morris explained.

A NPS Medicinewise spokesperson told Starts at 6o that a website is more likely to be legitimate if it has a real, physical address, preferably in Australia. Equally, legitimate websites will include an email address, a working telephone contact number and credible details about who runs the company.

“A legitimate Australian online pharmacy will usually have an internet address that ends in and will require a valid prescription from a doctor or health professional,” Morris explained. “Any site that provides prescription medicines without receiving a valid prescription is breaking Australian law.”

Read more: The most common reasons Aussies visit the doctor revealed in new report

Equally, it is illegal to important certain medicines into Australia by mail. If people order illegal medications from overseas and their parcel is intercepted, they will lose their money and could even face prosecution.

NPS MedicineWise does not have information on medicines being purchased and who is purchasing because many of the online sites aren’t legitimate and are not regulated, however, the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s recent safety alerts for medicines available online have included weight loss capsules and tablets, sexual performance enhancing medicines and detox capsules.

Thankfully, there are some questions Australians can ask themselves if they are thinking about purchasing medication online and want to minimise the risk.

“These questions could include, does the online provider have an Australian web address, does the site provide prescription medicines without requiring a valid prescription, and are the health claims made too good to be true,” Morris said.

For anyone considering taking or trying new medication or complimentary treatments, it’s always advised to talk to a health professional or GP. Similarly, it’s important to talk to them if considering buying prescription medicine online.

“They can give you the best advice on your health concerns, and provide a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment if needed,” Morris concluded.

More information for buying medication over the internet can be seen at

Read more: Expert answers: How safe is it to use expired medication?

Have you ever purchased medication online? 

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