The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has issued a fresh warning over the potential dangers of purchasing medicines on the Internet, after a poll of GPs revealed that a high number of adverse reactions to drugs bought online are being treated.

A survey of 423 doctors by GP magazine found that 25% have treated adverse reactions to medicines purchased over the Internet, while a further 8% of respondents suspected they had but could be sure, showing the significant extent of the problem in the UK.

Consequently, the Society is again urging the public to be aware of the risks when purchasing medicines online, stressing that they may not be suitable for the patient and could result in side-effects and serious risks to health. Bill Beeby, GPC prescribing lead, also warned that buying drugs online is a “minefield” as patients “just do not know what they will be receiving”, and he told GP that he would not advise anyone to go down that route.

The survey also revealed that 85% of GPs felt online pharmacies need to be more tightly regulated, but Dr Sarah Jarvis, spokeswoman for the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the newspaper she is surprised that 15% of doctors felt tighter controls are not necessary.

“Surveys looking at many online medications suggest that the proportion of counterfeits is enormously high and that many of them contain very worrying ingredients,” she stressed, highlighting the fact that despite current controls fake drugs are still slipping through the net in vast quantities.

Initiatives underway
There are already several initiatives underway to try to dam the flow of phoney drugs over the Internet into the UK supply chain. For one, the RPSGB has created an Internet Pharmacy Logo to help the public identify “bona fide” pharmacy websites where medication can be purchased safely.

The Society has also been working alongside UK regulator the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to raise awareness of the dangers of fake medicines, and at the end of the month all pharmacies in the country will be issuing information and advice cards in prescription bags to help patients become more informed about the issue and become better equipped to buy medicines safely.