With access to information at our fingertips, there is also easy access to prescription medication. With one click—plus free shipping—acquiring prescription medications has become easier than getting them at traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies. And in some cases, it’s more affordable.
Getting to that place has been a process that’s moved at the same rapid pace as the growth of the internet. It hasn’t been easy, nor should it be when it comes to providing health care. The mission of the online pharmacy to provide access to affordable medication is also accompanied by guaranteeing safety and security to the consumer.
The early years of internet pharmacies resemble that of the mail-order patent medicines from the late 19th century with its trade in questionable cures. While scientific advances and improved manufacturing processes allowed for better medicines to be made available to the public, shady cures and practices persisted. Stronger regulation over mail-order commerce hindered much of what could be sent by post. In 1904, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) was founded to combat dangerous manufacturers of disreputable medicines and monitor the practices of pharmacists.
By the 1990s the digital marketplace had begun to emerge as a destination for consumers. Just as Amazon.com was expanding outward from being the largest bookstore ever to becoming a vast commercial complex, more companies were becoming one-stop, one-click shopping hubs. Pharmacies and larger retail chains were still brick-and-mortar establishments where people would arrive with a doctor’s prescription and get it filled on premises. Increasingly there was a need to expand on to the internet.
In 1999, Drugstore.com was launched. It was not the first online pharmacy, but it was the first that offered a safe, secure service for consumers. In its wake, more pharmacies began to found websites both reputable and disreputable. The NABP set up the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program where reputable online pharmacy could apply to be registered as a safe and trustworthy site.