/ Health, Shopping

Would you buy medicines from a ‘stranger’ online?


Would you buy medicine from a stranger at the side of the road? No, yet many people are doing the equivalent of this online every day, as Alastair Jeffrey of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency explains.

As a rule we tend to buy from sites and brands we know, so why do some people buy medicines from sites that are unfamiliar, offering brands they’ve probably never heard of?

Perhaps some are too embarrassed to speak to their doctor. Maybe they have consulted a doctor but the medication they wanted hasn’t been prescribed.

Dangerous medicines for sale

We know the demand is there because every year we seize millions of pounds worth of medicines, mostly slimming pills and erectile dysfunction medicines that are on route to people in the UK. All of these have been sold online; many will have been supplied illegally and could be unsafe.

A substantial amount are unlicensed generic versions of medicines and are unlikely to meet the required standards of quality and safety. Others may be counterfeit but all have the potential to be dangerous as they may contain impurities, wrong ingredients and sometimes no active ingredients at all.

An example are slimming pills which were seized and found to contain ingredients withdrawn in the UK due to health risks, specifically heart attack and stroke.

So it’s clear that buying medicines in this way is a gamble – there is no way of knowing if they’re manufactured to mandatory standards of quality and safety, nor if they’re stored and transported according to their specific requirements. We’ve found medicines being made in unacceptable conditions which, if you saw, would certainly make you think twice about taking them.

Those involved in selling and supplying these medicines have no interest whatsoever in your health, they are interested only in your money.

Safely buying medicines

To assist patients who choose to purchase medicines online, a European logo has been introduced to identify legitimate online suppliers. All suppliers of medicines must register with the MHRA and display the logo on the pages of their site offering to supply medicines to the public.

Our advice to anyone who’s seeking medical assistance is to visit their GP and get a correct diagnosis. Prescriptions should be fulfilled by a registered pharmacy, either from the premises on the high street or from those operating an online service. Self-diagnosis and self-medication can cause more harm than good.

We will continue to work with technology companies, patient safety groups and other stakeholders to close down sites acting illegally. And, in collaboration with colleagues in Border Force, we will seize illegally imported medicines as they come into the UK. However, demand has a massive influence on supply and if people continue to use these sites, they will continue to operate.

We’re very keen to find out why people use these sites and what their experiences have been. This will assist us in developing a strategy to make people aware of the risks involved and try to divert trade away from criminals and illegal sites.

This is a guest contribution by Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). All opinions are Alastair’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

If you’re concerned about a website selling medicines, report them here or contact MHRA’s counterfeit hotline on 0203 080 6330 or by email at counterfeit@mhra.gsi.gov.uk. You can also check if a website can legally sell medicines online here.


They are a means of obtaining prescription drugs without a prescription – your doctor may not want you to have them. A way of self-medicating. UK suppliers will provide these. I do not understand why these UK suppliers are not prosecuted. Perhaps it is not an offence?


It is an offence to supply a prescription only medicine without a prescription and we regularly take action against those acting in this way. We would always urge you to speak to a GP or pharmacist about your health as self-medicating is dangerous and you are obviously taking a risk with your health.


Ailstair -While I agree its an offence and the US FDA say the same thing and have prosecuted around 2000 cases it still hasnt stopped the online supply of medicinal drugs . As I said in a previous post they could only stop 3 % of sales . What the public want to know is ,in actual fact , you will achieve 100 % prevention of international websites supplying business to UK citizens I can appreciate you could clamp down on UK based ones.


Two size 11s I think just walked in
I do not condone the selling illegally of anything not only of illegal substances because of the harm they might do but I think that this is not about such substances it is about people grasping at a chance to better themselves.
However such purchases may not be the way to go about this

What I also would rile against is that many of these companies will not pay tax and may supply products that are nothing like what they are promoting and if the product damages people can there be a recourse against such.

Firstly I think someone seen fit to start this topic for what reason I know not but I do have views as do many
If we are looking for views and I hope this is why someone started this topic off rather than a load of people landing like a jumbo jet with a load of opinions and no personal experiences or life experiences on this front better to sit quietly

I hope some of the end users will come on and tell us their reasoning behind why they pursue this route.
I have had a quick look around this eve and whilst i cannot understand why one would buy Amoxicillin nor have i any idea why people would need to buy Amoxicillin without going to a GP I would like to know why

Whether its legal. Whether it not is not the question
The question is “would you buy from a stranger what is normally limited to prescription only”

If size 11s lands with all laws blazing we are hardly going to find out as for whatever reason these people may already feel threatened. After all, it is illegal

I believe Which did not start this as a method of instructing or a platform for the police to to make a statement
They have proper channels to be doing that and I dont mean to stop Alistair if he wishes to hang around but this is a consumer site and we are consumers
For some reason some of us find they require to source these items on their own
Which started this as a topic for people to comment on and I’m pretty sure like myself there are those out there who would really like to know the reasons for this.

Firstly To size 11s short and very to the point post
We take regular action. That is probably very correct. Regular Sir is not good enough.
“Self medicating IS DANGEROUS” also lets us know that you assume that all substances purchased are either dangerous or the user is using them incorrectly neither decision of which is up too you Sir.
Innocent until proven guilty??

Probably most folk would not have disagreed with Mr Jefferys but I detest our public bodies arriving on scene with all the answers when in fact if they had all the answers the problem would not exist. Why is this happening???

Sorry Alistair but not everyone is compliant.

Now just in case there are some who have purchased substances online for their better good at least in their own eye’s I am sure we would like to hear your story
Everyone does not have to agree and if everyone could refrain from jumping on the first person through the door we might get to learn something which is the reason i see this topic being started I believe
I am sure I speak for Which and others and can say that perfectly innocent people can register under a pseudonym. post and be gone without size 11 being on their heels otherwise this is completely pointless topic.

So firstly we have to assume that all the substances are not for mind altering purposes. Right!!
I have looked. There are antibiotics as I already said and countless other things that as best I know do not get you high, send you to sleep or that are regularly used in the making of mind altering substances so why are people buying them
They cannot all be hypochondriacs and this is no small business so we need to know the reasons
After all the chickens are full of antibiotics despite all the efforts and the Gov continues to let us consume them by the milion
Secondly we will have to assume that some people for whatever reason self medicate.
It doesnt matter if you approve or disapprove like an Evangelist against Whiskey. You keep quiet. Right
Comment but do not eat the a**** off of someone if they come forward. They are obviously in a worse place than you are. Your worldly wise advice may hurt more than it will ever help

I know. i’ve been told to gather myself together and get on with it. I could write a book on that but other much better qualified people have done just that and the last thing you should ever ever tell someone when they are down is to gather themselves together.
Remember that
They are more likely to find a very high bridge because at that point everything may be their fault and they cant fix it so they just might opt for the other solution
You cannot be carefull enough
These are vulnerable people often with a very high IQ who have been used to figuring it all out and solving problems. Their problem solving abilities may not be just up to scratch when they are exhausted and have ran on adrenalin for years until there’s nothing left to run on
Go get ” Depression The Curse of the Strong By UK Doctor Tim Cantopher”

Thanks Tim should you be looking in.

Lets use a couple of possible situations
We have all read about family members donating live organs. Even non family members which is compassion beyond belief
I’ll interrupt to tell another
I give blood and always have done except for a break of about two years when I found things difficult
I know people who they themselves or family have needed and got several pints of blood.
But donate???? No
I can think as I please but I do not dream of saying anything more to them even if I think this is a very selfish action
So think before you speak.

If you can put yourself in the situation and I wish this upon no one
The situation where your standing looking at a loved one and you, your the only one with the kidney that type matches.
What do you do??????
Its very nice to read about it.
Its very nice to see the two of them on TV with a living success for want of better words but not all are successful and its not without risk for both parties
So????????????? You up for?? Worth the chance??? Someone’s life??? If you dont do it you’ll have to live with the consequences every breath of every day
It’s a biggy, we know

Right you find yourself in the same position but its not a kidney thats needed.
This time its a drug. A drug that has been proven to be 50% successful. Hell even 20% successful.
Sounds simple. Yes? No?
What if our NHS will not fund the drug?
What if our system has not approved the drug?
What if you cannot afford to travel?
What if you yourself are laying at home helpless and half time alone and a drug will let you get up and walk around.
Never mind heal you simply walk around for the next three weeks and that three weeks is all you have.
What will you do?
What if your child was laying its bed? Now I know some will either get right out mad with me or a tear will well up in their eye. Both understandable emotions.
Someone one says to you. That drug is easily available in Mexico. What will you do???

I know what I would do. Sorry Alistair. I’ll be on a flight and I dont do well with flying but somehow I’ll manage it
I dont care if they stop me and take the stuff off of me. I’ll be back on the first method out again and eventually myself, my wife, someone close will make it
It is that important and it does happen but no one is going to be telling this across the garden fence

Now you may say but that’s different. Yes it is different but lets keep going
Lets say that there are several of these suffers all having met as is often the case
Lets say it only takes one person taking the chance to help several little ones????
Lets say the little one always wanted to go to EuroDisney and this would let them enjoy your one last gift. I’m crying, litterly!!!!

Many of us have had to suffer the white coffin. It’s a tough sight to behold just imagine carrying it

You would and you would not be alone. I havnt but I do know of such and I dont care what size 11 thinks. Size 11 can go to the hot place
Just think of how many little stories that you’ve been told similar. have you heard the whole story

What about the child not so long ago that the UK Gov and size 11s police force had the parenst arrested via interpol for removing their own child from a UK Hospital and on their way via a holiday home in Spain I think it was they were arrested.
The British Public could barely believe it
The parents were willing to risk everything and were trying to get their child to was it Sweden to have some form of treatment
The NHS experts here said it would not work but the parents were up for it so to speak
We know the outcome
The experts can crawl behind as many medical terms and misdiagnosis as they can find but they made a mistake
The parents not the experts were correct. The experts were wrong. The Police were wrong and please dont so big and silly as to say that they were following the law. The law is up for interpretation and the Police are the interpreters before all others. Many Courts have found in favour of the Spirit of the Law it doesnt always have to be the letter of the Law
The doctors actually delayed further what turned our to be the right choice as as best I listened There maybe wasn’t any other choice for those two brilliant parents. Good on you. Three cheers

So those are extreme stories many would say but it is such stories that this unauthorised movement of medicines is born out of.
If enough people need the service the service will be made available and lets not forget this is not the same as a Cocaine or Heroin service although if kept underground those thugs will no doubt get involved if not already and that is the last thing those in need need.

So if there are reasons, genuine reasons then we and our Gov need to fix something to keep this from becoming yet another gangland income
The fact that the law is being broken by many and there is no addiction involved raises a load of questions that need answered

If we come on here and shout our great and high morals at people who are obviously not in good shape either as sufferers or as carers they are not going to come on and tell it how it is. Either way they are suffering it is we not they who need a kick in the behind

I invite I hope on behalf of Which and any reader who is or knows of purchases of prescription medicines online without prescription without the consent of a Doctor to please tells us your story. I for one will try to understand even if others are so fortunate as to not know what real illness is like to see.

Can someone from Which please blow some wind at this.
If no one comes forward we are no worse off. if they do we just might learn


OH my Dee !! I have size 11 feet but a few tears streamed down my eyes . I have never come across so well put, so deeply emotional and rational post yet on this Internet . Your post is one I wont forget ,still crying !


Oh Dear??
Around here Size 11s refers to the two big shiny polished boot toe’s that used to patrol the streets and did not know when to stop as they had the authority to go where they chose they thought
Hope that doesnt destroy your evening


I have never purchased prescription drugs online. If a drug I needed was not available via the NHS I would ask for a private prescription, but that has not happened yet.

It is good to hear that illegal suppliers are being closed down.


According to what is being referred to as drugs
Many folk have trouble with synthetic Thyroid medication and get along better with old fashioned Piggy derived desiccated stuff
This is not a funny subject and many Doc’s simply toe the line and will not prescribe NDT (natural desicated Thyroid) Prior to TSH testing which was brought about by the main manufacturer of the synthetic verions the problem was dealt with on ones symptoms and it worked pretty good. My Grandmother was one of those but once she had to go the man made route she went down hill like speed skier
So if you are fortunate to have an agreeable Doc great but there are 1000s who cannot get along with anything other than the natural stuff
I would not however suggest delving into the many potentially such as i am on and for the most part my Doc changes my script provided of course that I provide a reasonable reasoning behind any change
I have 2 really good Doc’s who now I’m not bluffing because they knew me when I was working the clock around and they know to a degree that I done myself in as such so I’m not on the bluff
However I am in a situation where the same health center and Docs have been there forever and i know that many others seldom see the same doc twice in a row which I dont think is a good thing
Overall I dont like self medicating but having inside knowledge that many in the UK would be lost without a perfectly natural substitute that is all too often refused and for no other reason that business I would suggest perhaps not being as fast off the mark to say No No No
Every situation requires careful evaluation and sometime people get so far down they are grasping at straws


LIke always our “friend” cameron is copying the US . The US -FDA say only 3 % of online pharmacies are in compliance with US law (latest figures ) so they havent shut down all the dodgy ones . The FDA has no jurisdiction of prescriptive medications from other countries (reminds you of overseas scam callers -eh ? ) . Many illegal online pharmacies use fake storefronts to make you think they are real pharmacies (just like a hackers fake website or email ) -products may be fakes -expired or unsafe ,some sites are so sophisticated that even health care professionals are taken in . And finally WHY are consumers turning to online medicines — Health insurance plans are encouraging home delivery and use of online pharmacies ,as prescription costs rise consumers look towards SAVING MONEY . Can anybody as well as me see where this is going ??? US fully private health service -UK Cameron,s ambition ? fully private NHS ( a third of the way now in England ) which also benefits taking out private health insurance – money-money-money -if I was a rich man too – to BB . If anybody disputes this will they put their real name in a post here saying this is NOT the way the government wants to go. Be honest -its so obvious that its shameful . THecabove facts relating to the US are straight off the US government,s website ,if the government wont stop rip-off telephone calls what confidence is there that they can or will stop online pharmacies as it is part of BB ??? The whole NHS scenario reqires a Which convo all of its own. When I am dead and gone remember my words .


This article completely describes why no one should ever buy these items on line and without medical permission. I wonder if anyone will be brave enough to admit doing so? They would deserve sympathy for trying to deal with their ailments, but, maybe, a help line or two could be flagged to give them an alternative strategy, if it’s not too late. Like others, I am glad that you are containing the problem, which is similar to that of counterfeit goods that are also unsafe to use.


In his introduction, Alastair Jeffrey mentions seizure of drugs sold illegally. I would be interested to know if this job is delegated to Trading Standards and what penalties are applied to the companies selling these drugs.