An analysis of more than 3,000 online pharmacies has revealed that consumers are being exposed to significant risks, both medically and financially. The research was conducted by MarkMonitor and has been reported on the BBC.
The study found that:
- Many online pharmacies are not accredited and therefore may not be operating a genuine pharmacy business
- 10% of the sites clearly stated that no prescription was required for supply of a prescription only medication
- More than half were not adequately storing customers' private data, including banking details
- Cost differences between accredited sites and non-accredited sites are indicative of fake or expired products
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has jurisdiction over British-based pharmacies but cannot close down pharmacies based abroad. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) maintains a register of all pharmacies in England Scotland and Wales, including those based online. A logo scheme is planned that will allow consumers to verify registration details and should be operational by the end of the year.
Action: Clinicians should encourage patients to use reputable sources for their medications. Consumers who choose to use an online pharmacy should ensure that the site is being operated by a legitimate retail pharmacy business.
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