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Patients Are Buying Medicines Online to Avoid 'Embarrassment'

Update Date: Dec 18, 2012 07:59 AM EST

A new study suggests that more and more medicines are being sold illegally as a rising number of people are going online to buy medicines, perhaps to avoid embarrassment.

According to the study, the unlawful purchases could be on a rise due to the fact that patients want quicker access, self medication and to avoid embarrassment which happens in case of one-on-one interaction with a pharmacist.

The study that involved a survey with pharmacists revealed that about half of them reported a customer admitting purchase of prescription medicine this way.

According to the poll conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and pharmaceutical company Pfizer, three-quarters of pharmacists believe that this practice has become more common in recent years.

Certain health organizations have also joined together and launched the Real Danger campaign to spread awareness about the potential dangers of buying prescription drugs online.

Health officials warn that medicines bought from unregulated means could contain harmful ingredients such as arsenic which could be lethal.

"These are worrying statistics and it's clear from our members that patients are still unaware of the potential risks associated with purchasing medicines online from unregulated or unverified websites. Some of these illegal sites are very professional and look like legitimate online pharmacies, but supply dangerous fakes or unlicensed medicines that have serious health implications. Our advice is clear; always buy medicines in person or online from a genuine UK bricks and mortar based pharmacy," Neal Patel, of the RPS, was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

"Counterfeit and unlicensed medicines are potentially lethal - you have no assurances about ingredients, quality or how the medicines have been made. Despite these risks, our recent seizures of vast quantities of illegal medicines demonstrate that there is still a huge demand in the UK. This campaign aims to further educate the public so they are aware of the potential dangers and we can work towards halting this dangerous criminal market," Nimo Ahmed, head of enforcement at the MHRA, added.

"The harsh reality is that unlicensed or fake medicines, easily accessible online, can contain harmful ingredients such as arsenic. They are often produced by people with no appropriate qualifications and can contain no pharmaceutical ingredients at all," Dr. Berkeley Phillips, medical director at Pfizer, said according to the report.

"Some fake medicines can contain totally different ingredients to the labelled active ingredients, some of which may interact with other medications, exacerbate other ailments or simply be toxic. Buying prescription-only medicines without a prescription has frightening consequences of which we want to make the public aware. Fake medicines can cause harm to patients, which can sometimes lead to death," Phillips added.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), officials have seized more than £34 million worth of illegally supplied medicine in the past five years, Mail Online reports.

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