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'Embarrassed' British men risking lives to buy drugs online

Half of pharmacists say they have customers who admit to having bought prescription-only medicine from potentially unregulated sources without a prescription. This shocking figure coincides with research released last month by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which revealed that in the past five years the agency has seized more than £34 million worth of medicine supplied illegally.

The new survey conducted by Pfizer and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) as part of the Real Danger partnership campaign with the MHRA, The Patients Association, The Men’s Health Forum (MHF) and HEART UK is published alongside the release of Pfizer's latest hard-hitting educational video released to raise awareness and highlight the importance of using the correct healthcare channels.

Neal Patel of the RPS said: 'These are worrying statistics and it’s clear from our members that patients are still unaware of the potential risks associated with purchasing medicines online from unregulated or unverified websites. 73% of our members questioned suspect that this activity has become more common place in recent years and 85% believe it is a risk to people’s health and potentially their lives. Some of these illegal sites are very professional and look like legitimate online pharmacies, but supply dangerous fakes or unlicensed medicines that have serious health implications. Our advice is clear; always buy medicines in person or online from a genuine UK bricks and mortar based pharmacy.'

'Potentially lethal'

'Counterfeit and unlicensed medicines are potentially lethal – you have no assurances about ingredients, quality or how the medicines have been made,' said Nimo Ahmed, Head of Enforcement at the MHRA. 'Despite these risks, our recent seizures of vast quantities of illegal medicines demonstrate that there is still a huge demand in the UK. This campaign aims to further educate the public so they are aware of the potential dangers and we can work towards halting this dangerous criminal market.'

The research has also uncovered some of the potential reasons why people are purchasing medicines in this way, despite the risks. Over half of pharmacists (56%) believe that people purchase prescription-only medicine from unregulated online sources because they are too embarrassed to visit a GP or because they feel they can get hold of medication quicker if they bypass the legitimate healthcare system.

Self-medication is a risk in itself, with people missing out on essential checks and monitoring that would be carried out by a qualified healthcare professional. For example, erection problems can be a sign of heart disease.

Dr Berkeley Phillips, Medical Director at Pfizer said: 'The harsh reality is that unlicensed or fake medicines, easily accessible online, can contain harmful ingredients. They are often produced by people with no appropriate qualifications and can contain no pharmaceutical ingredients at all. Some fake medicines can contain totally different ingredients to the labelled active ingredients, some of which may interact with other medications, exacerbate other ailments or simply be toxic. Buying prescription-only medicines without a prescription has frightening consequences of which we want to make the public aware. Fake medicines can cause harm to patients, which can sometimes lead to death.'

Page created on January 7th, 2013

Page updated on January 7th, 2013