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The dangers of online pharmacies

02 May 2022
Volume 4 · Issue 5


As we continue to embrace the internet in our day-to-day lives, the use of online pharmacies also continues to grow. George Winter examines their dangers and how they can be more effectively regulated

With the cost of living imposing tighter financial constraints on many households, online resources often inspire money-saving ploys. When it comes to choosing and buying medication, Hertig et al (2020) cite evidence showing that as of 2017, the internet had over 1.7 billion active websites, with an estimated 30 000 to 35 000 active pharmacies online at any time. However, over 96% of online drug sellers operate illegally. Given this context, it is little surprise that the global counterfeit drug market exceeds US $200 billion annually ‘and dominates other industries of the underground economy, including prostitution, human trafficking, and illegal arms sale’ (Hertig et al, 2020).

To what extent can consumers readily access medication in a pharmaceutical marketplace that appears freighted with risk? In a study of 13 online pharmacy retailers, Dursun et al (2019) evaluated the possibility of purchasing modafinil from the perspective of an ordinary Australian internet user. They found that only 24% provided information on the legal status of making such purchases and that while 77% included information on the side effects of modafinil, few listed supporting evidence for their statements.

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