January 3rd 2014
The UK's medicines regulator has alerted shoppers looking for a new year bargain to the dangers of buying medicines and healthcare products on the internet.
The warning from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) follows the body's action to close down over 1,200 illicit websites selling counterfeit and unlicensed medicines last year. These included supposed treatments for a range of conditions such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis and hair loss … all offered without the need for a prescription or any medical supervision.
Medicines that have not been licensed for use have not been tested for safety or effectiveness and may be counterfeit, meaning that they may be not only ineffective but could also pose a serious risk to health, even causing death. For example, individuals buying unlicensed tanning injections and nasal sprays containing Melanotan put themselves at risk of unexpected and unwelcome side-effects such as heart problems and eye disorders.
Healthcare products such as counterfeit condoms and fake dental equipment are also sold on the internet. In 2012, the MHRA seized 75,000 counterfeit condoms destined for the UK market.
Counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and healthcare products are usually sold cheaply on illicit websites or at market stalls but may come at a cost to people’s health or safety.
MHRA Senior Policy Advisor for Enforcement, Lynda Scammell, said: “If people buy medicines from illicit websites there is no guarantee that the medicines or healthcare products that arrive will be safe to use or of good quality. They could also become a victim of credit card or identity fraud as well as risk downloading computer viruses and email hacking." Speaking at the end of 2013, Ms Scammell continued: “This year, we have closed down over 1200 illegal websites selling counterfeit and unlicensed medicines. People need to put their health first so it’s important to take the time to see your GP or another healthcare professional. The likelihood is that you will get better faster if the correct course of medicines is safely prescribed.”
Reporting counterfeit medicines
If you have purchased medicines or medical devices online that you believe may have been fake, or have any concerns or information that may assist in tracking down those responsible for producing or selling fake medicines, please email the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Enforcement Group at [email protected] or call its 24-hour dedicated hotline on 020 3080 6701.