Internet Drug Shopping

Is it safe to buy drugs on the Internet?

A normal sensible answer to this question should be, “No, I would not take or buy any medication which has not been prescribed or approved by my doctor.”

But this is not so in real life. Millions of people are now going on the Internet and ordering drugs which are not scientifically proven to be beneficial. But the salesmanship is so good and people are so gullible that millions of people succumb to the temptation of buying stuff which may be hazardous to their health and pocket.

A good example was during the SARS outbreak. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had found 48 sites selling products such as “oregano oil” to ward off SARS. The FTC warned the consumers to hold on to their money as no product had been found effective in preventing, treating or curing SARS.

According to the 2002 Household Internet Use Survey done by Statistics Canada, Canadian households spent just over $2.4 billion shopping on the Internet, on everything from airplane tickets to books. This represents a 35 per cent increase from $1.8 billion spent online in 2001. I cannot imagine how many billions were spent in 2005.

Canadians spend about $16-billion annually on prescription drugs – an amount that accounts for nearly 15 per cent of all health services, and is more than they spend on physician services. The amount spent on non-prescription drugs probably runs into billions as well.

The temptation to buy prescription and non-prescription drugs on the Internet is on the rise. Recently, Health Canada issued a warning saying, “If you buy drugs on line, you may be putting your health at serious risk. This is especially true if you order prescription drugs without being examined in person by a health care practitioner.”

There are hundreds of Internet sites that sell drugs. Some sites may be legitimate but many offer products which are dangerous, says the Health Canada website. Many of these drugs are not approved for use in Canada for safety reasons.

Medicine is an imperfect science. We have no answers or cure for many ailments which inflict human beings. So it is not surprising that people want to spend money and put faith into substances and messages which offer them hope. Many of the Internet sites are selling miracle drugs and offering miracle cures in the privacy of your home.

That is where the danger lies. It is dangerous to take a prescription or non-prescription drugs without being examined in person and monitored by a health care practitioner to make sure the drug is helping you. As we know most prescription drugs have side-effects. So, how can we trust non-prescription drugs for safety and benefit?

What are the risks associated with buying drugs on line?
-Internet shopping removes any role for professional responsibility and leaves no documentation. You may not know who you are buying from, there may not be a legitimate street address or telephone number to contact if there is a problem.
-In case of suspected overdose or intoxication, you may not know the nature of the active ingredients, additives, or about the expiry date of the drug.
-If you are already on other medications then you may risk serious drug interactions or harmful side effects which may cost you your life.
-You may lose your money if the product is not shipped to you, you are unable to track down the company or the Canadian authorities may not allow the product to come in to the country.

It is important that you always carry a list of medications you take. In case of emergency, or when you visit your doctor or a specialist, you should inform him of what you take. This includes vitamins and natural health products, as well as prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as drugs bought on line.

Finally, if you have a question or complaint about therapeutic drug products purchased on line, or any health product then call Health Canada’s toll-free hotline: 1-800-267-9675.

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