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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 17:35 EDT

Researchers Warn of Internet Drugs

December 5, 2008

UK government officials have warned against purchasing drugs online in response to a recent study showing how accessible such drugs have become.

Researchers at Edinburgh University reported finding 35 Web sites selling prescription pain medications to customers without a prescription.
They reported their findings in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Researchers spotted almost 100 online pharmacy Web sites selling drugs in the UK. About half of those sold prescription painkillers, while 76 percent of them did not ask for proof of prescription.

Co-proxamol – a drug which has been removed from the market in the UK due to concerns over the risk of overdose – was available from three websites.

Study author Professor David Webb, an expert in clinical pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, said these were drugs that people should not be taking without advice from a doctor.

“We were surprised at how many sites you could go to and find, in some cases, quite potent painkillers that have addictive potential and that you could get them without prescription,” said Webb.

“The regulators are very aware of this problem and it is not one they can easily manage,” he added.

A Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency spokeswoman said that although it was illegal to sell such drugs to customers without a valid prescription over the Web, it was not illegal to purchase them.

“But we strongly advise people that buying drugs or slimming products from the internet is not a good idea, unless buying from a website that has a Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) internet pharmacy logo.

“At best you will be wasting your money and at worst they could be deadly,” the spokeswoman added.

“You don’t know what these products contain and you don’t know in what conditions they have been made.”

Priya Sejpal, RPSGB head of professional ethics, said: “Internet pharmacy undoubtedly offers patients easy access and choice, but it also brings increased risk.

“There are a growing number of unregulated suppliers operating online with no professional qualifications or healthcare expertise.

“In many cases, medicines purchased from such suppliers are counterfeit, substandard or unapproved new drugs.”

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British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

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