There is currently a television advertising campaign highlighting the dangers of fake medicine bought on the Internet. Often we are led to believe that these illegal websites that sell dangerous medicines are based overseas. However, Essex Police working with Interpol and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency have this week closed down a huge illegal drug business that was operating from a network of 14 homes across the UK, including a property in Broomfield, Chelmsford. The heart of Essex is at the centre of an international fake medicine scheme.
The medicines seized from the Chelmsford property included £23,000 worth of anabolic steroids that are taken by bodybuilders and athletes to give them an unfair advantage in sport. A large sum of cash was also found at the property.
It is thought that many of the drugs were being sold through the website buysteroidsintheuk.co.uk (site now closed down). According to Nominet, the UK domain registrar, the website was registered in October 2008 to a fake address in America.
There were also arrests in Romford related to the Essex connection in this fake medicine drama.
The raids were part of a Global operation to shut down the counterfeit medicine industry. The Internet has been ravaged in recent years by websites selling illegal and fake medicines. Typically sites sell painkillers, steroids, treatments for asthma and erectile dysfunction (i.e. fake Viagra pills) and even contraceptive drugs. Many countries do not have a national health services, and many people cannot afford the standard private health care coverage, so resort to buying medicines online.
Is it possible to buy medicines safely online? According to MotleyHealth, a Global Health and Fitness website, there is a “Health On The Internet Code of Conduct” that consumers should follow when buying from a new source. Sites that adhere to the HON Code must do the following:
- Be authoritative – Indicate the qualifications of the authors
- Complementarity – Information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship
- Privacy – Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
- Attribution – Cite the source(s) of published information, date and medical and health pages
- Justifiability – Site must back up claims relating to benefits and performance
- Transparency – Accessible presentation, accurate email contact
- Financial disclosure – Identify funding sources
- Advertising policy – Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content.
If you find a site selling medicine that does not follow these rules, then it is wise to be cautious. However, if you need a prescription to purchase the medicine, it is generally wise to purchase it from the only trusted source, a local pharmacy.
- www.mhra.gov.uk – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
- www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct – Health on the Net Foundation