I Ran an Illegal Online Pharmacy When I Was 19. Here’s How I did It.
When I was 19 years old, I heard about a new industry popping up where people can buy prescription drugs online. Being the hustler that I was (still am maybe?), I was hooked immediately.
I’m good at conceptualizing things, so I knew I needed the following elements:
- List of drugs
- A doctor who can prescribe the medication
- A pharmacy that will fill the orders
- A website
There were already existing online pharmacies running so getting a list of popular medications was easy. I noticed Viagra and Propecia were on every website I looked at. I honestly don’t remember the other drugs that were available online.
After I compiled the list of products, I had to find a doctor so I ordered medication from an existing online pharmacy and was able to speak to a doctor to get a prescription. I think he was in Minnesota or something. I told him that I was starting my own online pharmacy and when the site launches I would be interested in hiring him to write prescriptions for my pharmacy. He said for $20 a script he would do it. I had my doctor.
When I got the doc on board, I asked him if he knew a pharmacy that can fulfill my orders. Of course he did. I think most online pharmacies used this one brick and mortar pharmacy in Florida. Of course Florida..
I called the pharmacy and told them I’m launching a website and asked if they would fulfill my customers orders. They said yes as long as we can fax over a prescription from a doctor. No contracts or anything.
The pharmacy shipped directly to the customer so I didn’t have to worry about delivery.
Next, I needed a website. I found someone on Craigslist (of course I did) who basically duplicated another online pharmacy’s website. They all look the same anyways. Customers just needed to choose their prescription and fill out an online form asking why they needed the medication. From there, the doctor gets the form, signs off and faxes the script to the pharmacy.
Marketing in the early 2000’s was a bit different than today. Facebook ads didn’t exist and not many publications would run ads promoting prescription drugs for sale on the internet. Email lists were the way to go. Companies sold email lists in the millions for relatively cheap so if you send out an email blast to a million people and even if a half a percent of people bought — that’s money.
After business was humming for a bit, I wanted to put backups in place. So I found another doctor and pharmacy just in case my first doctor got arrested or the pharmacy gets raided by the FBI ( I believe they did I few years after I left the business).
Online pharmacies in the early 2000’s were frowned upon. I met my future wife when I was running the website and I remember when she introduced me to her dad (who’s a lawyer) — his first question he asked was ‘is that legal’?
Today, there are many legit and huge brands that sell drugs online such as Roman and HIMS. The only difference is they call themselves health and wellness companies when we called them online pharmacies. We were before our time and it was an awesome side hustle when I was in college. I learned a lot. Did I ever use the Viagra or Propecia that I ordered from the pharmacy when I tested the process? No. I have a great head of hair and never needed Viagra ;).