If you're a pharmacist or doctor, or are able to employ or partner with one, and you have the financing necessary for getting properly licensed and insured, you can provide a valuable and lucrative service with an online pharmaceutical store. Pay careful attention to credibility and to risk, however. Online pharmacies have a sketchy reputation, and for good reason. News stories are filled with reports of counterfeit drugs and international scam rings. Take care to establish your reputation and be prepared to spend heavily on marketing to overcome this market resistance.
Assemble the proper credentials. In the United States you must have a pharmacist or doctor on site to ensure the proper handling and quality of your prescription drugs. If you're employing your on-site medical professional rather than having those qualifications yourself, screen your employee thoroughly before hiring. His record must be unimpeachable.
Consult with an attorney, accountant and insurance agent to incorporate your business. You will need to purchase substantial amounts of medical liability insurance, and ensure that your corporate structure protects you personally from as much liability as possible. Get advice from professionals who are specifically experienced with online pharmacies.
Apply for licenses. You must be licensed as a pharmacy in both the state in which you operate and those in which you sell. The laws on this vary by state, so consult your attorney.
Secure relationships with reputable suppliers. Even legitimate pharmaceutical websites can be taken in by illegitimate suppliers who provide counterfeit prescription drugs. Thoroughly investigate your suppliers before placing an order with them, and then have your pharmacist perform safety and quality control checks on every shipment you receive. This will add substantially to your overhead cost but is a requirement for doing business safely. Note that since 2009 updates to FDA regulations, controlled substances cannot be imported from another country or dispensed to a person without an in-person examination by a doctor.
Set up your online store. This is both your dispensary and your primary marketing tool, so make it a good one. Be very clear about where your pharmacy is physically located and authorized to do business, and what kinds of prescription drugs you do and do not sell. Ensure that your site does not redirect customers to any website outside your control. And since you'll be taking credit card orders, you may have to worry about the Internet security precautions and audits required for meeting Payment Card Industry legal standards.
Market your business. Take great care to emphasize the legitimacy of your site, and only advertise on trusted websites or in legitimate traditional media. Never send spam emails! It is the surest way to brand yourself as a scam.
Evangeline Marzec is a management consultant to small high-tech companies, and has been in the video games industry since 2004. As a published writer since 1998, she has contributed articles and short stories to web and print media, including eHow and Timewinder. She holds a Master of Business Adminstration from Thunderbird School of Global Management.