A number of studies have shown that prescription drugs are readily available online. The bad reputation of online pharmacies may also come from some research evidence suggesting that many sites selling prescription drugs supply their consumers with drugs when, for medical reasons, they shouldn’t have.
Some studies attempted to determine the quality of the service provided by Internet consulting physicians by actually ordering drugs through these services. The two studies tried to determine whether drugs are being supplied to people for whom they are not suitable. They did so by posing as a patient with contraindications; for example, by posing as a 70-year-old female with coronary artery disease, or a 48-year-old male with a history of heart attack and currently taking nitrate, both ordering Viagra. Despite clear contraindications, 3 out of 10 (30%) for the woman and 1 out of 5 (20%) for the man of the services actually delivered Viagra to these patients. In another case, the drug Xenical used for weight loss was delivered in 5 out of 5 tested services to a fictitious patient with lifestyle-related obesity and a BMI of 28, which is not considered an indication for Xenical. Other issues criticized by these studies include: some of the services were not capable to give an accurate reason for not delivering the drug; some of the services did not obtain an appropriate medical history; and some of the services used inappropriate medical terminology or used only the brand names of drugs (without generic names).
Some studies also only looked at the kind of information offered on these sites. These studies dealing with drug information on e-commerce sites took place between February and May 1999 and all focussed on sildanefil sites (one in addition looked at sites selling finasteride). To evaluate the quality of these sites, authors extracted prices in some cases, checked for completeness of online-history taking and/or information provided on the site e.g. pertaining to contraindications in other cases , and the presence/absence of disclaimers and/or liability waivers in others.