Stay safe – ensure you use a genuine online pharmacy

At the moment this is not easy! But part of a new EU Directive will soon help.

Called the Falsified Medicines Directive this enables pharmacies (and in certain Member States other licensed premises) to sell medicines via the internet provided that they have the legal right to do so. It must be remembered that each Member State has different laws relating to the sale of medicines over the internet. For instance in the UK and a number of other EU countries then prescription medicines can be sold in this way – provided a prescription has been written for that patient.

Currently in many other EU countries then only the category of “over the counter medicines” or indeed no medicines at all at present can be sold “at a distance” but that is all set to change. This is because the new Falsified Medicines Directive obliges Member States to make the sale of medicines at least “over the Counter medicines” (which do not require a prescription but do require the supervision of a qualified pharmacist) available to the public. To ensure that the public can check if the website that is selling medicines is genuine each “seller of medicines at a distance” has to be register with their country’s medical health agency (or similar body) and display a common logo like the one displayed on the left of this page on every website page that is advertising a medicine.

Please note NOT all of the Common Logos are on display here – the key thing is that when you go onto a website selling medicines if it DOES NOT have the Common Logo (which will have the your country’s flag embedded), the chances are it will NOT be a legally operating website.

The visitor to the website can then click on the logo and this will route them through to a list of these sellers who have been registered (pharmacies, supermarkets in some countries etc). In addition, it is the duty also of the Member State to ensure that it puts in place public information services so that the public are made aware of the issue of falsified medicines and the purpose of the Common Logo. At present there are different levels of take up by pharmacies across Europe.
However to help Keep you safe when purchasing any drugs online, here are some useful guidelines:

  1. Don’t buy from sites which offer to sell you drugs without a prescription, or sell drugs which are not approved by The European Medicines Agency (EMA).
  2. Don’t buy from websites who do not have a registered pharmacist available to answer questions.
  3. Check the URL of the website by typing it into: – is it registered in your country? It is illegal to import drugs bought from foreign sites, the risks are greater, and there is very little you can do if you get ripped off. Another tool is the to find out how many websites each registrant owns. If the owner of the website you are investigating owns several sites and they are based in a foreign country perhaps their service is not right for you.
  4. Is there a telephone number that you can ring to place your order? Does the telephone number work?


It is important to keep up-to-date with any news coverage about falsified medicines. You can do this by logging on to our latest news or useful links section at or by going to the ASOP website or CSIP websites. Despite counterfeiting incidents increasing at a rapid rate, particularly online, the most secure place to receive secure and quality medicines is via your genuine pharmacist.

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