Buying medicines online
In the European Union (EU), it is possible to buy medicines online. Patients should only buy medicines from online retailers registered with the national competent authorities in the EU Member States, to reduce the risk of buying sub-standard or falsified medicines. The European Commission has introduced a common logo that appears on the websites of these registered retailers.
EMA is urging patients to beware of potential falsified medicines sold by unregistered websites and vendors.
These vendors may be exploiting fears during the COVID-19 pandemic and claiming that their products can prevent or cure COVID-19. They may also appear to provide easy access to medicines that are otherwise not readily available.
For advice on treating symptoms, speak to your doctor or pharmacist or follow advice from health authorities.
EU citizens should be particularly vigilant if they come across vendors claiming to sell COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. These types of medicines are not usually available for sale online.
EMA advises citizens to follow official vaccination programmes instead of seeking out alternative sources of vaccines.
To stay safe when buying medicines online, look out for the logo. The logo is clickable and will appear on the websites of all online medicine retailers in the EU that are registered with their national regulatory authority.
Clicking on the logo will take you to the register of online retailers of the country where the retailer is established and registered, corresponding to the flag displayed on the logo. Once there, check that the retailer is listed.
Do not continue with your purchase if the retailer is not on the list.
The national flag and the text are an integral part of the logo. Only national flags of an EU Member State, as well as those of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein can be displayed. A logo that displays the EU flag, for example, is not authentic.
When you buy medicines from unregistered sources you are at greater risk of purchasing falsified medicines. These medicines may not have passed through the usual rigorous evaluation processes that ensure that a medicine is fit for the EU market.
Falsified medicines may:
- contain ingredients of low quality or in the wrong doses;
- be deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity or source;
- have fake packaging, wrong ingredients, or low levels of active ingredients.
As a result, these medicines may not work or may be harmful. The consequences of taking falsified medicines can be serious for patients and may include:
- the disease being untreated or treatment failure;
- unexpected or severe side effects;
- dangerous interactions with medicines the patient is already taking.
The legal framework for the common logo is set out in European Commission Directive 2001/83/EC as amended by Directive 2011/62/EU on falsified medicines for human use and by the Implementing Regulation 699/2014 on 24 June 2014.
By 1 July 2015:
- Member States have to ensure that the legal provisions on the common logo are applied in their country;
- national regulatory authorities in the EU are obliged to list all registered online medicine retailers in their country on their websites;
- all online medicines retailers registered in the EU should display the logo.
The Directive obliges Member States to conduct and promote information campaigns on:
- the dangers of falsified medicines,
- the risk of medicinal products supplied illegally online,
- and the functioning of the common logo for online sales of medicinal products.
To support this effort, the Commission provides Member States with information and communication materials to be used as such or adapted for national campaigns.