LONDON, January 10 /PRNewswire/ --
Millions of Brits could be playing Russian Roulette with their health buying prescription-only medicines from rogue internet sites, according to research conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB).
In response to this growing online danger, the RPSGB today rolls out the Internet Pharmacy Logo, a visual tool to help the public identify if a website is being operated by a bona fide pharmacy in Britain.
The research shows that over two million people across Britain now regularly purchase medicines via the web. While a number of legitimate pharmacies provide online pharmacy services, there are also a number of suppliers operating from websites offering to sell medicines who have no professional qualifications or healthcare expertise. In many cases, medicines purchased from such sites are counterfeit, substandard or unapproved new drugs, which put public safety at risk.
The research also reveals that almost a third of people admit to not having a clue about online regulations.
All pharmacies across Britain, including those offering internet services, must be registered with the RPSGB. The new logo will be visible on the homepage of participating online pharmacies and features the unique RPSGB membership number of the pharmacy operating the site. A link from the logo to the RPSGB registration pages allows visitors to check the legitimacy of a website and the pharmacists running the practice before making a purchase.
RPSGB Director of Practice and Quality Improvement, David Pruce, says:
"The internet presents a real danger to people's health. Dishonest traders are selling medicines online without any relevant professional qualifications or healthcare expertise. The products they sell can be poor quality at best and dangerous at worst. People who wish to buy medicines over the net should do it at a legitimate registered online pharmacy. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and can lawfully and safely supply them over the internet.
"The public must be vigilant and we recommend that they use the presence of this logo in conjunction with a routine of checks when deciding whether or not it is safe to buy."
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,950 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken from 12 - 14 December 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 7% of internet users buy medicines online - YouGov.
In 2007, 31.8 million people had accessed the internet in the three months prior to 27 Aug 2007 (www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/inta0807.pdf).
World Health Organisation estimates that 1% medicines available in the developed world are likely to be counterfeit. This rises to 10% globally, although in some developing countries they estimate that one third of medicines are counterfeit.
The most popular drugs obtained online
PROZAC - A pack of 30 tablets costs GBP20 from online pharmacies. More than 3.5 million people in Britain take antidepressants, with Prozac among the most widely prescribed of its type. There have also been reports of clubgoers "self-medicating" with Prozac to counter the come down from taking ecstasy. In 2003, 81 deaths were attributed to overdoses of these types of drugs and there have been reports of these causing some people to commit suicide.
VIAGRA - About GBP50 for four genuine tablets. Viagra nets more than GBP1bn a year for Pfizer and many more millions for the thousands of counterfeit copies that are available. While genuine, branded Viagra tablets will cost around GBP10, fakes are available for as little as GBP2 each. Doctors are concerned that it has also become a "clubbers' drug" with people mixing it with illegal substances such as ecstasy despite warnings that it can carry risks of heart problems.
VALIUM - About GBP50 for 30 tablets online. Recently, doctors have begun reporting a rise in the number of young women using the relaxant to sleep after taking cocaine or amphetamines. They are buying it online or obtaining it through the same dealers selling them illegal drugs. The Priory Hospital in Roehampton estimates that up to one in 10 patients at its addiction centre is now hooked on Valium.
RITALIN - About GBP20 for 60 tablets. It has a chemical formula similar to cocaine and because it is an appetite suppressant, young girls and teenagers have been known to take it to keep slim.
SEROSTIM - About GBP6 for one injection. It is used to help build up the strength of Aids patients who suffer debilitating weight loss. Body builders are buying it online to bulk out muscle and it also enables them to recover faster from work-outs. Women are even injecting it in an effort to combat the effects of ageing and there have been reports of people in the film industry using it to make their skin look tighter and younger.
PROVIGIL - About GBP90 for 30 tablets online. Provigil is marketed as a treatment for narcolepsy, a condition that causes excessive sleepiness and can make it impossible for people to stay awake. Suggestions that it could also help boost weight loss and mood have made it even more popular. Clubbers are using it to keep partying through the night, while businessmen are buying it to help them through long days in the office, and students are taking it to keep revising.