Online consultations in cyberpharmacies: Completeness and patient safety

Grazia Orizio, Peter Schulz, Serena Domenighini, Maura Bressanelli, Sara Rubinelli, Luigi Caimi, Umberto Gelatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Many online pharmacies that serve as a substitute for original or personal medical prescriptions use a health questionnaire for consumers to complete on their Web site for buying prescription-only medicines. A content analysis of online medical questionnaires from a sample of online pharmacies (OPs) examined their completeness. Fifty-seven questionnaires were identified in which online pharmacies sought health status assessment from online purchasers. To evaluate the questionnaires, a checklist tallied their characteristics, including general features, medical history requested, and involvement of the consumer's doctor. Drug allergies were queried in 55 OPs (96.5%) and other allergies in 40 (70.2%). All of the questionnaires asked whether the consumer had suffered or was currently suffering from a particular illness, but a question about past surgery was present in 23 sites (40.3%) only; 40 sites (70.2%) asked women if they were pregnant or breastfeeding. Only 30 pharmacies out of 57 (52.6%) asked if the consumer's family doctor was aware of his/her intention of buying online and an even lower percentage (19.3%) asked if the purchase was based on a medical diagnosis rendered by a physician. Less than 20% of the pharmacies asked for the name, address, or telephone number of the consumer's family doctor. The results confirm the inadequacy of online pharmacy medical questionnaires in the assessment of health status for prescribing drugs. The results suggest that these questionnaires aim more at giving the consumer a false sense of health assurance than performing an effective assessment of his or her health status relative to the drug purchase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1022-1025
Number of pages4
JournalTelemedicine and e-Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • Internet
  • Pharmaceutical preparations
  • Public health
  • Quality assessment


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