Drug shortages are affecting pharmacies in England with two-thirds dealing with shortages every day and another 21% encountering them several times a week.
This shortage is due to Brexit, Covid and supply chain problems that have altogether disrupted the availability of medicines. Following this, a recent survey has revealed that around one third (31%) of people have now turned to buying their prescription drugs online.
However, Martin Preston, CEO and founder of private rehab clinic Delamere, warns that several risks come with buying prescription pills online, and explains how to know where you are buying from is legitimate.
The risks of buying medication online
Medicine could be fake or dangerous
One of the biggest risks that come with buying medicine online is that it could be fake or not what they say of the packet.
Drugs that you receive can look very real, and may even be packaged the same. But if they are bought from unreliable sources the chances are they could be counterfeit, contaminated or otherwise unsafe. Not only that, but fake medication can stop you from getting better or make you feel worse than you already do.
Slight differences in medication can make a big difference
Legitimate pharmaceutical retailers in the UK will be regulated and have their ingredients approved for use, but if you buy from an unknown supplier, the contents of your medication may be different depending on what is allowed in the country it was produced.
The problem with this is, that despite only a slight change in ingredients, it can cause new side effects or allow you to build up a resistance to your normal approved medicine.
Medicine can be past its expiry date and reduce the effectiveness
As well as the risk of not knowing exactly what is in the drugs you buy online, it’s very possible that you can be given medication that is past its expiry date.
Though some websites may seem like a cheaper or easier option, there can often be the absence of checks on the safety, expiry date or quality of the products supplied. Taking medication that is past its expiry date, can be dangerous because it can reduce its effectiveness or make you feel worse.
They may contain harmful or other active ingredients
Another risk that comes with buying medication online is that there might be too much or too little of the active ingredient that is normally in the medicine you buy, especially if you are buying from an unknown supplier.
For example, you might buy a product that you think is an anti-anxiety medication, but it doesn’t contain any of the active ingredients that should be in it or may contain too much of it. This is particularly dangerous because too high doses of active ingredients in medication can have serious consequences for your health.
Medicines bought may prevent others from working
When you go to your GP, you will always be given a prescription that will work alongside any other medicines that you might be taking. But while buying medications you think you might need may seem easier than going through your GP, not knowing what works together can be a problem.
It is therefore important that before you buy any kind of medication online, you seek the advice of an expert that can tell you if it’s safe to take alongside other medicines you might be using so that you don’t pose a risk to your health.
Martin Preston, founder and CEO at Delamere says: ‘With the ability to self diagnose online now becoming easier, access to medication is also more widely available online. However, before purchasing any kind of medicine online it is important to be wary of the consequences that can come with it.’
‘A lot of online websites that claim you can buy medication through them online, will often make promises that aren’t necessarily true. Just because they say they offer quick and good quality service doesn’t mean they will meet the correct requirements.’
‘But while it’s important to be wary of websites like these, not all pharmacies are illegitimate. There are ways to identify if a website you are buying from is safe.’
‘Regulated pharmacies will have a green and white logo displayed on their website that says “check if this website is operating legally”. By clicking this you will be able to find a list of approved pharmacies and what medications they are allowed to sell.’
‘However, as a team of addiction specialists, we at Delamere do not recommend buying any kind of prescription drugs online, as the risks outweigh the benefits. While it might be convenient for some, visiting your local pharmacy is always the best option when buying prescription medication as there are trained professionals on hand to help you.’