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Medicines from the Internet - advantages and disadvantages of online pharmacies

On-site pharmacy

On-site pharmacies are usually nearby and offer personal and direct pharmaceutical advice if required. Pharmacists or pharmaceutical-technical assistants can deal with the symptoms and the choice of the right drug, explain the effects and side effects and compare the drugs with other agents.

In the conversation it can also be clarified whether doctors should be called in.

Many pharmacies also offer health advice, measure the current blood pressure or blood sugar or lend appropriate equipment.

Thanks to the "A" of the pharmacies, reputable dealers can be identified easily and beyond doubt, and the medication is usually available immediately, thanks to the emergency service also around the clock. If someone is unable to go to the pharmacy themselves, medication can be delivered to their home.

On-site pharmacies are therefore particularly suitable for immediate medication needs and for people who prefer personal advice.

The on-site services at a glance:

  • Ad hoc procurement of acutely needed drugs
  • Personal advice
  • Additional services that patients can use for free or for a fee (e.g. blood pressure / blood sugar measurement, vaccination advice, loan of various aids, etc.)
  • partially delivery service that delivers the required medicines to your home
  • emergency services


Disadvantages on site:

  • Competition for non-prescription drugs varies greatly from region to region
  • the prices must be requested and are not immediately apparent
  • difficult and time-consuming price comparisons
  • the range cannot be viewed in full

(Internet) mail order business

German mail-order pharmacies are subject to the same laws as on-site pharmacies. In particular, they are only allowed to offer the mail order business as a supplement to a pharmacy business. The prices for prescription drugs are predetermined; pharmacies are only allowed to determine these themselves for over-the-counter medicines. In the case of prescription drugs, the pharmacy is also obliged to dispense the cheapest preparation if the prescribing doctor has not ruled out the substitution by a drug with the same active substance (so-called generic) on the prescription.

The European Court of Justice (Az. C-148/15) ruled on October 19, 2016 that fixed prices for foreign pharmacies were not compatible with European law. Therefore, foreign mail-order pharmacies were able to grant bonuses on prescription drugs. However, this regulation has largely been replaced by the on-site pharmacy strengthening law:

According to the law, EU mail-order pharmacies will be allowed in the future no discounts or benefits on prescription drugs grant. You are bound to adhere to the price ranges anchored in the Drug Price Ordinance. Accordingly, the same price for prescription drugs will apply in the future for those with statutory health insurance, regardless of whether the drug is bought from an on-site pharmacy or an EU mail-order pharmacy.

This regulation affects statutory insured persons and prescriptions on health insurance.

In Germany, only authorized retail pharmacies are allowed to sell by mail. Serious internet pharmacies can be recognized by the security logo that is uniform in Europe. You will find a register of all German mail-order pharmacies on the website of the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information.

Internet pharmacies from other countries of the European Union are also allowed to sell their drugs to Germany if the country has similar strict sales conditions as in Germany. This currently applies to pharmacies in the Netherlands, Sweden (only prescription drugs) and the Czech Republic (only non-prescription drugs).

How does "Brexit" affect the mail order business in pharmaceuticals?

In the case of pharmaceuticals that are to be delivered from Great Britain to Germany, the following changes have resulted from the UK's withdrawal from the European Union:

  • According to Paragraph 73 of the German Medicines Act (AMG), pharmaceuticals that are subject to authorization may only be sent to German end consumers from member states of the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA). Since Great Britain also left the EEA on December 31, 2020, the dispatch of pharmaceuticals requires authorization from Great Britain to Germany currently an administrative offense as long as there is no commercial import permit.
  • It should also be noted that from now on a customs clearance is required which the Can significantly delay delivery time, and from a value of 22 euros the Import sales tax accrues.

Further information is available on the website of the German customs.

Advantages of e-commerce:

  • low prices for many over-the-counter drugs
  • good comparability of prices via internet portals
  • convenient ordering from home
  • Delivery to your home


Disadvantages of (Internet) mail-order pharmacies:

  • no acute supply due to delivery times of several days
  • Shipping costs can negate price savings
  • Advice by phone or email may not be immediately available
  • possibly uncertainties about the seriousness of the pharmacy

Mail order variants

Various mail-order pharmacies cooperate with supermarkets or drugstores. In most cases, orders are also placed via the internet pharmacy. But there are also so-called pick-up points where you can hand in the prescriptions directly. In addition to the Internet, many mail-order pharmacies also offer orders by post, fax or telephone, sometimes also by catalog. The medicines can then be picked up on site within 2 to 3 days. However, not all drugstores offer such an order and pick-up service.

Some internet senders offer another option for payment. Customers receive a code when they order on the Internet, which they can then pay for in the cooperating supermarket at the mail-order pharmacy. The internet pharmacy then sends the package to the person placing the order. This saves customers having to divulge their account details on the Internet.

The cooperation partners are not allowed to offer the drugs themselves on their premises. The price level corresponds to that of the respective mail-order pharmacy.

For pharmaceutical advice, customers must use the advice hotline of the cooperating mail-order pharmacy. There is no on-site consultation.

This variant is suitable for people who want to take advantage of the mail-order pharmacy, but with additional ordering, payment and delivery methods.

Advantages of supermarkets, drugstores and other pick-up points:

  • quick availability on site
  • low prices for many non-prescription drugs and medical devices
  • possibly additional ordering and collection options


Disadvantages of supermarkets, drugstores and other pick-up points:

  • no acute supply due to delivery times lasting several days
  • Advice on mail order companies by phone or email not immediately available
  • often no on-site advice for over-the-counter preparations