For many of us buying a product online is often an almost daily event, from clothing to electrical goods and even fresh food. But what about purchasing medication on the internet? Can the purchase of life -saving or life-enhancing drugs really be as easy to buy as a DVD or a new pair of running shoes?
Well, the truth is it is- or at least it can be! And organisations such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are here to help you and millions of other patients make the sale of medications online safe and reliable.
Organisations such as the MHRA are set up as a barrier primarily to ‘counterfeit’ medicines. This is extremely important for consumers because it is extremely hard to know if what is being sold is genuine or not. Counterfeit drugs are generally marketed as cheap alternatives to big name drugs such as Viagra and it is this more economical alternative which lures customers to stray to illegitimate substitutes. However, more often than not, like many things in life it really is too good to be true. Indeed, these low cost alternatives frequently contain no actual active drug (i.e. they don’t work!) and are plagued with impurities and toxins which can be extremely dangerous to un-suspecting patients.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that over 50% of the medicines purchased from websites may be counterfeit and what is more worrying; despite the fact that these fake medicines cause around half a million deaths a year, a School of Pharmacy in London found that only 19% of Britons felt there was a growing risk from counterfeit medicines compared with 74% of Europeans as a whole.
Currently all online pharmacies must display a logo of a green cross over a caption of ‘registered pharmacy’ as stipulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council. They also must have a unique registration code which can verify the authenticity of the pharmacy via the General Pharmaceutical Council’s website which lists all registered sellers of prescription only medications in the UK. In addition to this and in a bid to improve the safety of patients online a new MHRA logo must now be displayed by all sites selling any kind of medication including general sale medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen.
In relation specifically to the new MHRA logo which was introduced in July 2015 requires all websites selling medication to the public to register with the MHRA so that users can verify which websites are legally selling medication and which are not.
Furthermore, as stated officially from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency website, ‘from the 1st of July, anybody in the UK selling medicines online to the general public needs to be registered with the MHRA and to be on the MHRA’s list of UK registered online retail sellers, they also need to display on every page of their website offering medicines for sale, the new European common logo which is registered to the seller.’ The clever idea behind this logo is that upon clicking onto the logo users will be re-directed to the official MHRA’s list of online sellers via a hyperlink. This recent requirement is thought to be beneficial in that it should help people legitimately buy medicines online in a safe manner as users will be able to scroll through the list to ensure that the seller of the medicines and subsequently the website selling the products is safe and legal.
In addition, if the registered person retails a medicine through a third party website, then that third party must too display the new logo on every page of their website which offers medicine to the public on behalf of the initial registered medicine provider. In addition, new rules in accordance with this scheme also enforce that any medicine being sold must be licensed in the state/county in which the consumer, who is purchasing the product, is based.
It is important to acknowledge this new logo is not the same as the previous logo run by the General Pharmaceutical Council which is only required by online pharmacies which are selling and supplying prescription only medication. Both logos from the MHRA and General Pharmaceutical Council are a legal requirement and must be displayed by online pharmacies.
Indeed, the principle which lies behind this new logo is to help reduce the number of these counterfeit drugs being bought in the UK which are very often extremely dangerous and to also further legitimise those registered sellers as trustworthy sites where medicine can be safely purchased. Indeed, Lynda, Scammell, senior policy advisor at the MHRA warns, “Buying from an unregistered site could mean you do not know what medicines you are getting, and you could even be damaging your health.” Furthermore, in a bid to ensure that company’s comply with this new law tough repercussions have been introduced;
Failure to display this new MHRA logo or not being a registered seller of medication is up to two years in prison, or a fine or both.
In conclusion, buying medicines can be a risky business but there are ways consumers can keep themselves safe. It can be appreciated that a lot of what has been discussed is somewhat wordy and perhaps presented in too much depth, so below are the essential facts to clarify all the must-know facts that patients should know;
• All websites in the UK which sells medicines now must display a new MHRA logo on all pages of their website
• The new compulsory MHRA logo is a hyperlink to a list of all the registered sellers of medication
• This new logo is not the same to the previous General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) logo which is only essential to pharmacies selling prescription only medication
• All legal online pharmacies, such as Assured Pharmacy, must display the MHRA logo and the GPhC logo.
Therefore, to keep yourself as safe as possible, buy from reputable sources such as Assured Pharmacy; a site which does display all the mandatory logos and information. So keep an eye out for the relevant legal attributes which prove that the site and subsequently its products are legitimate and more importantly safe.
Assured Pharmacy is not liable for the currency or accuracy of the information contained in this blog post. For specific information about your personal medical condition, please contact our doctors or pharmacists for advice on [email protected].