During the last years, there has been a newly emerging and rapidly growing danger for the safety of European patients. Purchasing medications on the Internet significantly increases the risk for being exposed to potentially lethal unlicensed agents or fake drugs or low quality preparations. Even if they happen to be genuine, these counterfeit medications have probably been improperly repackaged, restored or transferred or may have instructions in the package leaflets written in a foreign language that may confuse patients and prevent proper administration.
Let us have a look at some figures. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that fake drug sales amount to 1% in developed countries, 10% in developing countries and 50% for drugs purchased on the internet from websites hiding their natural status. According to the European Union (E.U.), fake drugs have increased by 1.000% within the period 1998-2004. Confiscated counterfeit medications have increased by 384% in the year 2006, with an extra 51% rise in 2007 (over 4 million packages).
Patients order online drugs for various reasons, among which are the following:
• They have faster and easier access.
• They are embarassed to ask their doctor about the specific drug/s.
• They want to keep their condition hidden from employer and health authorities.
• They are afraid that their doctor will be unwilling to prescribe the specific drug/s for their condition.
• They want to bypass the Healthcare System.
EAASM reveal the extent and consequences of this dangerous practice by conducting extensive reseach in more than 100 internet pharmacies and 30 commonly used drugs that need prescription. These include medications indicated for the treatment of severe medical conditions, such as erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, neurological and psychological disorders.
According to the results, the main conclusions are the following:
• 62% of the drugs purschased online are either fake or of lower quality
• 95,6% of online pharmacies operate illegally
• 94% of online pharmacy websites are NOT Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS)
• More than 90% of online pharmacy websites provide without prescription drugs that are normally sold only with prescription.
It is absolutely imperative to inform patients about the tremendous dangers involved in getting fake drugs. Only by raising public awareness is it possible to secure access to safe legitimate pharmaceutical products.
For further information, read the relevant WHO Announcement (Word Health Organization, May 2012).