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E-pharmacies guilty of ‘blatant disregard for health’

Which? attacks online quacks

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It's still all too easy for people to buy prescription drugs from online pharmacies.

That's the warning contained in this month's edition of consumer mag Computing Which?, which reckons that Internet pharmacies display a "blatant disregard for the health of those buying from their websites".

Posing as ordinary consumers, researchers bought weight-loss drugs and anti-depressants - all prescription-only medicines - with little or no diagnosis or promise of follow-up care.

Few, if any, of the sites Computing Which? visited ran proper medical checks before dispensing the drugs. Most relied on patients to monitor their own dosage, 'trusting' patients to tell them what medications they've been taking and for how long.

Jessica Ross, Editor of Computing Which? accepts that regulating online pharmacies isn't easy since many sites used by people in the UK are based overseas, so exempt from UK law.

She said: "The MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] should issue clear guidelines for best practice so that sites selling prescription-only medicines register customers, track repeat prescriptions and more importantly, monitor individuals once they start taking the drug.

"If these sites have nothing to hide, they should name the doctors and pharmacists used by them and work with the MHRA to put proper safeguards in place."

Yesterday, the UN's drugs agency urged Governments to do more to crack down on the illegal trafficking of pharmaceutical drugs online.

Inconsistent laws and the failure to enforce legislation already in place has led to an explosion in the trade of pharmaceutical drugs online. Some can be bought via Web sites while other are touted openly in spam emails, making it easy for people to get their hands on powerful drugs. ®

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