Why I don’t (completely) believe in online shopping


These days buying almost anything you wish for is just a click away. Online shopping saves time and money, and no one can neglect the amount of things available that otherwise wouldn’t fit in just a single store. But one particular item that came across my mind recently got me to the conclusion that not everything should be sold online. And by this I mean medications.

Nowadays buying prescription drugs from the Internet is easy, and more and more people are turning to the Internet for cheaper medications that are easily reachable. Not to mention the constant spaming of our email inbox with ‘Recover your masculinity’ offers. But is this something people should buy so carelessly? Certainly not when you consider the risk of counterfeit, contaminated or just unsafe drugs. You name it.

In 1999 the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy started continuously reviewing these websites and found that from over 10,700 pages reviewed, 97% fall in the ‘Not recommended’ category because they are in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. Most of them are unlicensed, operating illegally and what is certainly striking: 88% don’t even require a doctor’s prescription! Knowing whether the medicine is contaminated, expired or counterfeit is almost impossible. There are ofcourse online registered pharmacies that require a prescription, but knowing which page is safe and which is not is a definite challenge.

Searching through these websites, I realize that the offer is endless and the prices substantially low. You can find anything from just some ‘innocent’ drugs to the ones that ‘cure cancer’. And a medicine for HIV costs 3 dollars! It seems like a perfect catch for helpless people that tried all the options.

When I imagine how a choice is being made and thinking about filtering and recommendation agents, I just don’t believe there could ever exist such a system that would replace the expertise of a real doctor or pharmacist, weighting pro’s and con’s, explaining side effects and combining therapies. And in this case, memorizing one’s previous purchases would never result in an adequate personalized recommendation because medications are not about the colour and size.

Here it is not just about preferenes. When lives and safety are tampered with, one should always think twice. Or thrice.

Sara T. (402434)

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