My role


Educate men in the risks of online buying - don't bully them

Buying drugs online is dangerous and daft. So why, asks Jim Pollard, are so many men prepared to consider it? 

On our health information site, we have just completed a readers' survey that suggests that most men would be prepared to buy drugs online in the right circumstances. Yes, most men.

Of those surveyed, 38% said they would buy online 'in the right circumstances' and a further 23% said maybe they would. Now, this was a self-selected survey so I wouldn't claim it was highly scientific but at the same time there's no reason to doubt the basic finding. Indeed, one in three of the men in our survey had already bought drugs online.

The most popular online purchase among the 200 men surveyed was drugs to help erections (15% had bought them). The second most popular category was weight-loss drugs with 4%.

Clearly there is a big risk to online buying. But it is also clear - and doctors, drug companies and regulatory authorities need to understand this - that a lot of men are happy with it. Seven out of 10 of men who were buying online said they would recommend what they were buying to a friend. It may be illegal, it may be dangerous but for some men it's better than the alternatives - namely, taking nothing or having to talk to a doctor.

The most popular 'right circumstance' was 'if the doctor (or NICE) was unable or unwilling to prescribe something I felt I needed. Other 'right circumstances' included:

  • if a reputable site recommended it
  • if someone I trusted recommended it
  • if I or a member of my family needed something that NICE guidelines wouldn't let us have
  • if I'd been prescribed it before and it was cheaper
  • to avoid having to go the doctors because they are 'only open in the weekdays'
  • to avoid it appearing on my medical records as they are 'now open access to the whole surgery'
  • lack of medical insurance
  • in an emergency

Conclusion: the issue of online buying is not as open and shut as some might think given the obvious risks. Clearly it damages drug companies profits and brand reputations. Of course, it's illegal. But the man in the street couldn't care less about drug company profits or even about illegality. If most men still don't do it, it is because most men don't think it is a risk worth taking.

Given this willingness to buy online, men need to be informed about how the counterfeit drugs trade really works so they can make their own decisions. This is what we're doing right now on malehealth with features including a tour of an internet drugs factory. Once you know what goes on behind the spam, there's only one decision you can make. But it needs to be a decision based on knowledge. Drug companies and doctors take note: threats about law-breaking or an old-fashioned 'just say no' type approach won't do it.

Page created on March 1st, 2008

Page updated on December 18th, 2009