September 30, 2013, by Cerina

The Internet prescribes my medication.

blog 30.09.13
After writing my blog on ‘drug dependence’, I couldn’t help but contemplate on the issue of buying prescription drugs online.

I like many others may find some health issues very personal, making this harder to share face to face in a doctor’s or pharmacist’s consultation room. It is at this point where many patients would turn to an ‘easy way out’, and with the rising popularity of computers and online surfing, gaining medication over the internet would appear to be a good solution. I mean many would argue that this would save patients a lot of humiliation as well as embarrassment that may have been the case if they had decided to actively see a doctor or pharmacist. Unfortunately however, this raises a poignant question; do patients really know the risks associated with buying prescription drugs over the internet? This appears to be a different case altogether, a case that is important to address with my readers today.

As I usually do, with issues like these, I am always eager to find out more but this is something I do ironically over the internet. I came across a an article published by ‘Medical News Today’, which had written about a research that was done by Pfizer and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) as part of a campaign to make people more aware of the dangers of buying medication online without a prescription. The results of the research appeared to show that the number of people buying drugs online is increasing with 56% pharmacists agreeing to the fact that people tend to buy their drugs online to avoid the embarrassment of seeing a doctor with 50% of their customers admitting to buying drugs online.
Overall, the report published after the research clearly shows that the risks of buying medication are much greater in comparison to the potential ‘benefits’ for any patient.

Having read the article, I believe that patients are still not very aware of the risks associated with buying medication over the internet. Although some seem legit and authorised, many only appear to be this way, and instead are actually fake and illegal. This causes a greater concern for medicines prescribers, like pharmacists, as patients could potential put their health at risk by taking medicines that are potentially fake and harmful to their lives.
Taking legal action over websites that are unauthorised and selling unlicensed drugs is not easy .But, having said this, how can we as pharmacists then prevent the number of patients turning to the internet for quick ‘fixes’ or even as their regular ‘prescriber’? The recent introduction of the medicines use reviews (MURs) and the new medicines service (NMS) is definitely something I am in favour of as these provide a private consultation with a pharmacist and therefore a good opportunity for the pharmacist to become aware of any signs or behaviour of improper medicines use or perhaps new signs of a condition as a result of taking a counterfeit medicine.

In addition to this, I believe pharmacist can encourage patients to open up by simply being more sympathetic and an active listener. Possessing the ability to interact with patients should be a minimum requirement for any healthcare professional, particularly for pharmacists, who should be making patients and their health a primary concern in order to provide the best care possible.

Last but not least is awareness. In my opinion, this issue has not been raised enough. I am a third year pharmacy student and having only been properly introduced to this issue from a TV serial, this raises some concern. This alongside the results from the research carried out by Pfizer and RPS, clearly indicates that this is a significant problem. A problem I hope we can deal with as soon as possible before it escalates.

What do my readers of this blog think of this issue? I would love to hear from those who were aware of this problem prior to my blog. Feel free to add some more suggestions of ways in which pharmacists could prevent patients turning to unlicensed medicines.
I have added a link to the article from Medical News Today below – happy reading!

Posted in Law and EthicsPharmaceutical ResearchPharmacy in the news