Seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction online is a popular route for many men. Not all men are entitled to prescription medications for ED on the NHS (either for free or at the levied rate) and a lot of men who do seek treatment privately prefer the discretion of doing so remotely (rather than seeing a doctor face-to-face).

There are a number of ways you can get ED treatment. And even online, as we’ll discuss, there are numerous providers, which have different processes.

Because ED is fairly common, treatment is well-known and in demand. This has led to a rise in fake Viagra sites and counterfeit sellers. So it’s important for users to know what to expect when buying ED treatment online and how the process works.

How does buying ED treatment online work? 

This largely depends on which website you visit. Different clinics and pharmacies can have different processes.

A lot of online pharmacies use ‘doctor questionnaires.’ Once you’ve navigated a site and sought out the type of treatment you’re looking for, the site will then proceed to take you to a questionnaire. 

Typically with ED medication, there will be questions about pre-existing health conditions, your weight, your blood pressure, other medication you may be taking, your symptoms and whether you’ve been diagnosed/already used any treatments. 

Once complete, the questionnaire should be reviewed by someone qualified to offer a prescription. If appropriate, they will recommend treatment for you.

Some online pharmacies offer ‘chat’ features. Sometimes this can take the form of a chat window, which provides direct access to a doctor or a prescriber. It can also take the form of a video call. They will ask you appropriate questions about your health and symptoms, to help them make a decision about treatment. 

Depending on the outcome of the consultation, the prescriber or doctor will then issue a prescription for treatment. Online pharmacies will usually receive this electronically.

Upon receiving the prescription, the medication is then prepared at the dispensing pharmacy as it would be at a ‘brick and mortar’ pharmacy, before being shipped via courier. 

A pharmacy has a duty to protect the discretion and privacy of the person who is receiving the medication, and will therefore be obliged to package the item so that it does not expose details of the contents or, in any way, breach data protection guidelines. 

More online pharmacies and healthcare companies are now developing subscription packages, where for instance users can sign up to receive a certain amount of treatment each month. This saves users having to go through repeat consultations with prescribers or place repeat orders. A prescription will be issued that lasts for a certain time (for example six months), and when this expires, the user will be asked to take a consultation before a new prescription can be issued.

Are online pharmacies always safe?

If you use a registered pharmacy, and you are truthful and honest with the prescribers who review your case during consultation, yes. 

However, illicit online pharmacies do exist. These might be offering treatment without doing the proper checks to ensure it’s safe for you, or even be selling counterfeit treatment.

This poses a significant risk to health. So it’s important to make sure the pharmacy you’re using is registered, and providing genuine treatment.

How to identify a safe online pharmacy

With the exclusion of Viagra Connect and some versions of Sildenafil 50mg, ED treatments are prescription-only medicines. Even those that aren’t prescription-only are pharmacy medicines, so in either case, you’ll need to go through a health screening with a healthcare professional before treatment can be issued. This is the first thing to consider when looking to purchase treatment online. 

Does the site you’re visiting offer prescribing services? In the UK, only GMC-registered doctors and GPhC-registered pharmacy prescribers can write prescriptions.

Prescriptions for ED can only be written given the appropriate symptoms and given you do not suffer with certain medical conditions (contraindications). This usually takes the form of an online consultation. If it feels as if the provider hasn’t asked sufficient questions regarding your health and symptoms, you may want to look elsewhere. 

Check to see if they’re registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority, which is a UK body. There is also an organisation called the Care and Quality Commission (CQC) which oversees online prescribing, and to operate a pharmacy must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Quick Tips to Spot an Online Pharmacy Scam

It’s important to remember that “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 [its] market.”

If you’re ever unsure, there are some quick steps you can take to help you assess the trustworthiness of an online pharmacy. 

Discounts and Free Trials 

Legitimate online pharmaceutical operators will offer any given drug at a fixed price. As with any business, prices may be subject to change over time. 

However, one of the biggest telltale signs of illegitimate or illicit sites are drastic discounts, or ‘free samples’ of a particular drug or medicine. 

It’s illegal to offer prescription treatment, on a commercial or private basis, for free.

Look for Qualifying Logos and Badges

All online pharmacies must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council. All sites registered with the GPhC should display a ‘Registered Pharmacy’ logo, which looks like this:

Look and Feel

Lastly, question how the site looks and feels. Are health professionals clearly displayed with their credentials? If you’re unsure about certain information or claims made, cross-reference what you’re reading with a trusted site like the NHS or Patient UK. 

If the website doesn’t ‘feel’ safe, makes questionable claims, provides inaccurate information, or has very low prices that seem too good to be true, then it might not be the safest online provider for you.

Page last reviewed:  23/07/2020