What’s Best - Online Pharmacies or High Street Chemists?

Online shopping has come a long way since Amazon started selling books over the internet back in 1995. Almost every aspect of the modern economy is online and we’re making fewer physical - face to face - purchases every year. The cashless online revolution has also extended to our personal healthcare. It now takes just a few minutes to get prescription medicines online and have them delivered within 24 hours by courier.

Some patients have been quick to embrace the benefits of ordering meds online, but a lot of people are still unsure about whether an online Doctor and prescription service is right for them. There have been a lot of stories in the media about fake medicines or expired medicines sold online. The scammers were quick to see the potential of the pharmaceutical market and are still out there touting for business.

In fact, if you’re ordering from UK licensed online pharmacies, you’re as safe as if you were buying from any big name online store. Online pharmacies are legitimate, regulated businesses and all the usual consumer protections are in place. It’s easy to shoot over to Trustpilot and see exactly what their customers have to say about them.

So what exactly are the differences between online pharmacies and the traditional high street chemists? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons and see why UK patients are switching to online prescriptions for a wide range of medical conditions.

Online prescriptions are convenient

If you need prescription medications - even for a minor condition - you have to see a GP to get the prescription. In some surgeries, it can take a fortnight to get an appointment. You then have to go to the surgery and sit in a waiting room full of potentially contagious people before you can even see your GP.

Once you’ve discussed a (possibly embarrassing) medical problem with your doctor and finally got your prescription, you have to make a trip to the chemists, stand in line, and wait for your medication. Chemists are professionals and they dispense prescription medicines all day everyday, but it’s still no fun when a complete stranger sees that you need erectile dysfunction tablets or have bacterial vaginosis.

When you request a prescription online, the initial consultation is a confidential medical questionnaire that takes about two minutes to complete. The online Doctor then checks that the medication is safe for you to use. If your order is approved, a courier will bring it to you the following day. You can order with your mobile and pay securely with a card. You don’t need to take time off work, find parking, or rush around as you juggle other commitments and errands.

Are online pharmacies too impersonal?

One of the advantages of an old fashioned chemists shop is that your prescription is checked and dispensed by a professional pharmacist who tells you exactly how to take the medication safely. Many patients value the personal touch and the chance to ask questions about their treatment.

There’s a perception that online pharmacies are remote and impersonal and that patients are just numbers in the system. If you request a prescription online, you are still getting a highly personal individual service. The only real difference is that the process is much faster and isn’t face to face. The online Doctor considers your health status carefully and will phone or email you if there are any concerns. Each prescription is checked and shipped by a UK licensed pharmacist and you receive detailed instructions about how to use the medication safely.


Not everybody is happy talking about embarrassing medical problems. If you’re not comfortable with a particular GP, or there are communication problems, you may even be reluctant to seek treatment. Most UK doctors and chemists are experienced and sensitive to patients’ concerns - but you may still prefer an online consultation. If you’re worried that online pharmacies are just out to make money, or may be too aggressive when it comes to offering prescriptions, it’s worth remembering that they are regulated in exactly the same way as your local GP and chemists. When you visit an online pharmacy, you’re receiving treatment from a professional healthcare provider.

Sensitive treatments that are available online

Women Men
Hormonal contraception Erectile dysfunction
Cystitis treatment Premature ejaculation
Morning-after pill Hair loss
Bacterial vaginosis
Period delay
Facial hair removal

Online pharmacies can also provide urgent treatment or repeat prescriptions for sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, herpes, and genital warts.

Cost versus Convenience

Online pharmacies are commercial health care providers and they are competing for patients. If their prices aren’t competitive and their service standards aren’t high, they will lose out to their competitors. It’s difficult to draw broad comparisons between online pharmacies and the NHS because there wide variations in prescription charges and some medications offered by the NHS still require private prescriptions.

Often there may be hidden savings when you get your prescriptions online:

  • You don’t have to take time off work to see your GP
  • You don’t have to pay for any parking or transport costs
  • You can choose from a wider range of branded and generic medicines

The pros and cons at a glance

Online Pharmacies High Street Chemists
Fast and convenient. Order securely at any time with your mobile or computer. You can also make one-click orders for repeat prescriptions. Slow and inconvenient: requires appointments, queues, and possibly visits to two separate locations.
Minimal embarrassment with an online consultation. Medications shipped in plain packages. Face to face conversations with a GP and possibly an intimate medical examination. Another conversation with a chemist.
Wide range of medications to choose from. Your GP will usually decide for you, based on NHS guidelines.
Inclusive service with convenient online price comparison. Varying prescription charges and possible extra charges.
Next day courier delivery to the location of your choice. Buy from a chemists shop.

So what’s the future of the high street chemists?

The UK’s high streets used to be the heart of the community, you could pretty much guarantee to find an independent butcher, baker, greengrocer, ironmonger and chemist within a 100 meter strip. Unfortunately, they have taken some big hits in recent years. Online shopping, high business rates, out of town superstores, and parking problems are all contributing to the decline of the high street.

There’s no doubt that ordering ED treatment online is faster, more convenient and saves a lot of embarrassment. British men are switching to online pharmacies like DoktorABC for precisely these reasons. That’s not to say that the old fashioned high street chemist shop is finished, but they will have to adapt. DoktorABC’s one click prescription renewal service with free next day delivery is streets ahead!