Ordering Drugs Online.

From the WebMD Archives

May 1, 2000 (Washington, D.C.) -- Shopping for prescription drugs at a legitimate online site is not much different from buying books or sporting goods over the Internet, although you do need your doctor's permission.

At most sites, customers provide some basic information about themselves, along with details on the drug prescription they want filled.

Patients can have their doctors phone or fax in the prescription, or ask the site to contact their doctor directly. Prescriptions can also be transferred online by simply asking the site to call your hometown pharmacy.

"The practice of pharmacy is the same on the Internet as it is in traditional 'brick and mortar' stores," says Peter Neupert, president and chief executive officer of What's new here is the way we communicate with and inform customers.''

Online, there's no need to stand in line to get your questions answered.

If you're wondering about a drug's side effects, for example, a list can probably be found by simply surfing to the page that displays information about the medication you need. Most sites also provide information on how drugs will interact with others and when they should be taken, as well as a substantial amount of material on illnesses and health issues.

What's more, many sites allow you to email a pharmacist who will generally respond privately and within 24 hours, or the sites will display an 800 number for instant access.

"We provide comprehensive drug information where consumers can learn about their prescription drugs, including usage, cautions, and possible side effects, as well as drug prices," says Neupert.

Michael D. Towle is based in Chantilly, Va., and writes regularly on health and legal issues for WebMd.