Fake medicines – a real danger

By Neal Patel, Head of Corporate Communications

As part of our commitment to patient safety, we’re proud to be involved in the Real Danger campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of buying prescription medicine online without a consultation with a heath professional or proper authority. We took part in important research that resulted in some alarming statistics:

∙ 73% of our members questioned suspect that this activity has become more common place in recent years and 85% believe it is a risk to people’s health and potentially their lives.

∙ The UK’s pharmacy regulatory body, the MHRA, revealed that in the past five years the agency has seized more than £34 million worth of medicine supplied illegally.

We know pharmacists hear horror stories from patients who have taken drugs bought from illegal websites online only to experience unpleasant side effects. Patients need to be aware that unlicensed or fake medicines can contain harmful ingredients such as rat poison, boric acid and lead paint.

They are often produced by people with no appropriate qualifications and can contain no pharmaceutical ingredients at all. At best, these drugs do nothing and are a waste of time and money. At worst, they contain toxins that can kill.

Indeed when we worked with ITN to test prescription painkillers they had purchased online we found they were contaminated with the illegal street drug methamphetamine also known as “crystal meth”

Why do people buy drugs online? Convenience, embarrassment and a lack of awareness of the dangers seem to be the main culprits. Some of these illegal sites are very professional and look like legitimate online pharmacies, so it can be easy to be tricked into buying dangerous fake medicines. Our advice is clear; always buy medicines from a genuine UK based bricks and mortar pharmacy and if you need prescription medicines you need to have a consultation with a health professional such as a pharmacist or GP.

To find out more visit the Real Danger website and watch the compelling video.

Make sure you are dealing with a real UK based pharmacy by checking the register of UK pharmacies held by the General Pharmaceutical Council

Share the message with your friends and family who may not be aware of the risks of buying prescription drugs from counterfeiters online and help us at the RPS to increase patient safety through greater awareness of this growing problem.