Living with Chronic Pain

Safely Purchasing Medications Online for Canadians


Purchasing online medications

Although purchasing medications online can pose a risk to personal safety and finances, it can also offer many benefits, especially for those who are unable to leave their home or who have a chronic pain condition. The online purchase of medicine is convenient and can make health care accessible to those that may otherwise not have access. Despite the fact that it may cost less, entities may use false or misleading information to take advantage of those looking for low-cost, accessible medicine.


Medicine can be purchased from a fake website, which poses several risks. This includes the medicine not being regulated and often not following the same guidelines as Canadian medications. They may be too weak, too strong, or contain harmful ingredients. “Harmless” filler ingredients are not always harmless: they can ultimately leave a person with an untreated condition.

Buying medicine from fake websites can also cost a person financially. Illegal entities have one goal in mind: to gain a profit. They do not care about the health or well-being of their patrons and will take advantage of the fact that they are looking for treatment at a lower cost. Some of these websites steal banking or credit card information or accept payment without sending the product.

How to tell when a pharmacy is fraudulent

When purchasing medication online, it is essential to know what red flags to look for that indicate the website is unsafe. Some indicators include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A licensed pharmacist is not available to discuss the prescription or answer questions.
  • The website does not ask for a prescription.
  • The website is not “secure” (a secure website will begin with “HTTPS” rather than “HTTP”).
  • The online pharmacy is not licensed by the individual provincial or territorial government.
  • Medications claim to be “miracle cures” for serious or chronic conditions.
  • Medicine has a suspiciously low price.
  • There is no “brick and mortar” address.
  • Shipping is offered worldwide.
  • The location is outside of Canada

What to do

Websites associated with a Canadian street address can be searched through the College of Pharmacists for the province or territory to confirm that the pharmacist is licensed. In the case that no physical Canadian address can be found, a U.S. program called the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program can help validate websites that end in “.pharmacy.”

Additional sources: National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities and Ontario College of Pharmacists

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