Fake prescription medicine bought online

One in four GPs report they have treated patients who have experienced problems from buying medicine online. The MHRA, drug companies and almost all the medical community of one hue or another find online medicine problematic.

Fraud and illegality of supply of medicine online is not difficult to find. The websites concerned, many based overseas, are blatant about what they do. The sites need to be blatant and highly visible online because this is how they get their business. This is why they are fairly easy to put out of business. All it takes is legislation requiring search engines, such as Google, to remove illegal sites from search results displayed for the UK.

The existing statutory body for the regulation and promotion of medicine in the UK, the MHRA, which already campaigns against fake medicine on the net, could identify the sites. These sites are easy to identify. Many do not have any contact details on their sites and are not registered as pharmacies or clinics. Once the sites are identified the MHRA could, if legislation were in place, require search engine service to stop listing the sites; problem solved.

There would perhaps need to be a formal way of notifying site owners they are providing an illegal service and are to be the subject of a ban. There would also need to be an appeals procedure.

I suspect the regulators do no realise that to get business on the web requires a high search engine rating, and that without it the business is not viable. It is not easy to get a high search engine rating. It takes time and investment. Sites once banned would not simply be able to mutate and reappear under a different brand. They would go out of business; leaving legitimate site a fair chance and patients better off.

The search engine operators, possibly civil liberties groups, and maybe the illegal businesses themselves would put up spurious arguments against this proposal. The persuasive counter argument is that these sites are illegal and dangerous, and that aiding and abetting in an offence.

Any websites supplying prescription medication in the UK is operating outside the law unless it a registered pharmacy displaying the General Pharmaceutical Council logo, or it is a web clinic registered with the Care Quality Commission.

Our NHS partner pharmacy is the The Park Road Pharmacy, registration number 104236.

Dr Fox is aware of many sites providing medicine online which are neither. These sites sometimes use their lack of regulatory oversight as a selling point by stating that they are able to supply medicine cheaply because they are not regulated. They omit to say that the safety of the medicine they supply, and the information given to patients, and the consultations they carry out, such as they are, are substandard, making them potentially dangerous.