One in four GPs report online drug concerns

By Tom Moberly, 16 April 2009

Exclusive - GPs call for tougher online pharmacy rules amid fears over patient safety.

One in four GPs has treated patients for adverse reactions to medicines bought online, a GP newspaper survey reveals.

A total of 25 per cent of GPs said they had treated patients for adverse reactions caused by medicines bought over the internet. A further 8 per cent acknowledged they may have, but were unsure.

In addition, 85 per cent of 423 respondents said they thought that online pharmacies needed to be more tightly regulated.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP in West London and a spokeswoman for the RCGP, said she was 'not remotely surprised' that so many GPs have had patients who have experienced adverse reactions from medicines bought online.

'I am only surprised that 15 per cent of GPs did not think that online pharmacies needed to be more tightly regulated. Those are almost certainly GPs who have not had professional experience of the harm counterfeit drugs can do,' she said.

'Surveys looking at many online medications suggest that the proportion of counterfeits is enormously high and that many of them contain very worrying ingredients,' she added.

Dr Bill Beeby, GPC prescribing lead, told GP newspaper he had concerns about online pharmacies being used for supply of medicines for conditions such as erectile dysfunction, but that the true extent of the problem was unknown.

'Where a prescription is generated from an online medical consultation, there is opportunity for deception and risk to the patient,' he said.

'Patients can tell little lies more easily with an electronic consultation,' Dr Beeby said. 'You cannot even tell whether patients are the age or sex they are claiming.'

He added: 'When it comes to buying drugs on the internet, it is a minefield. People just do not know what they will be receiving. I would not advise any of my patients to go down that route.'

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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