Internet Painkiller WarningDec 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Experts in the United Kingdom (U.K.) are warning consumers about buying drugs over the Internet, the BBC News is reporting. The BBC also noted that a recent study revealed that strong painkillers are easily available online.
The BBC reported that a Edinburgh University research group located 35 Internet sites selling prescription-only pain medications without prescriptions to U.K. consumers. U.K. government regulators warn that consumers could experience “deadly” consequences from buying medicines online, said the BBC, which noted that study results appear in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. The team searched online for pharmacy sites, using Google and Yahoo search engines, said the BBC, finding nearly 100 such sites selling medicines to UK consumers, with nearly half selling prescription painkillers and the vast majority of these—76 percent—not requiring consumers to provide a legitimate prescription. The team found, said the BBC, that six sites did require a prescription, but did accept a fax or email copy, which the researchers noted, could be “forged or modified,” said the BBC.
The BBC said the team found opioids and anti-inflammatories in their search, noting that these drugs can have serious effects and should not be taken with other medicines or by those with certain conditions. For instance, said the BBC, Co-proxamol, which was removed from the U.K. market over overdose risks—was readily available from three separate Websites. Dr. Joan Hester, consultant in pain medicine at King's College Hospital in London told the BBC that long-term opioid use could lead to addiction and serious side-effects saying, "In the right dose at the right time opioid analgesics can undoubtedly improve function and quality of life, but in large constant doses, especially if unmonitored, the effect of them can be disastrous." The BBC noted due to ethics concerns, the team did not make any online drug purchases.
Professor David Webb, study author and a clinical pharmacology expert at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC, "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," adding, "The regulators are very aware of this problem and it is not one they can easily manage. But there certainly needs to be some sort of international agreement."
Prescription-only medicines cannot be legally sold without a proper patient-physician consultation; however, it is not illegal to buy medicines over the Internet, a spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency told the BBC. "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. You don't know what these products contain and you don't know in what conditions they have been made,” the spokeswoman told the BBC. The RPSGB’s logo process was initiated in the U.K. for “bone fide” pharmacy Websites earlier this year, said the BBC. RPSGB head of professional ethics, Priya Sejpal, told the BBC that "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."