Drugs bought on the internet may be counterfeit as a lack of regulation of online pharmacies is putting people at risk from fake medicines, research suggests.
Analysis of more than 3,000 sites found medicines for sale without a prescription and some that were likely to be counterfeit or out of date. Industry fraud advisers MarkMonitor also found half of the sites did not safeguard customer details.
Experts have warned against buying medicines online. Sales of six popular prescription drugs for problems such as weight loss and erectile dysfunction were monitored in June for the survey. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a watchdog which oversees the quality of medicines available in the UK, are planning to roll out a logo scheme at the end of 2007, which provides a direct link to the society’s website where visitors can verify the registration details of both the pharmacy and pharmacist.
“Patients considering purchasing medicines via the internet should be encouraged to verify the website is operated from a registered retail pharmacy”, a spokesperson for MHRA has said.
Of 3,160 pharmacies found to be selling one or more of the drugs, only four had a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site accreditation (a scheme set up by US pharmacy boards) although many others falsely claimed they had. Extremely low prices also suggested some of the drugs sold were likely to be fake, expired, stolen, diluted – or a different medicine to that promoted on their label.