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Online drug purchase risky, residents warned

Health officials cautions residents that online purchases could be harmful and illegal

Gulf News

Dubai: The Director of Pharmaceutical Services Department at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has cautioned all members of the community against purchasing drugs or prescription medication from social media channels, to avoid taking illegal and possibly harmful drugs that can have negative side effects.

Dr Ali Al Sayed, the Director of Pharmaceutical Services Department at DHA said that buying prescription and over-the-counter drugs on the internet from a company you don’t know means you may not know exactly what you’re getting.

“There are many websites that operate legally and offer convenience, privacy, and safeguards for purchasing medicines. However, there are also many “rogue websites” that offer to sell potentially dangerous drugs that have not been checked for safety or effectiveness. Though a rogue site may look professional and legitimate, it could actually be an illegal operation,” he said.

He said that these rogue sites often sell unapproved drugs, drugs that contain the wrong active ingredient, drugs that may contain too much or too little of the active ingredient, counterfeit drugs or drugs that contain dangerous ingredients.

Al Sayed advised the public to make sure that the website or social media channel from where they are buying drugs is licensed by the concerned authority in the country and has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.

He said that other signs of a safe website or social media channel is one that requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor, provides contact information, and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.

He pointed out that an unsafe website or social media channel is one that sends you drugs with unknown quality or origin, offers prices that are extremely lower than the competition, sells prescription drugs without a prescription, does not protect the customers personal information and does not provide ways to contact by phone.

He added the public can check if the medication is certified by checking the Ministry of Health approved medicine list (available on MOH website), Dubai Drug Coding List (available on E-Claim web site) and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi list.

Commenting on herbal products sold online, Al Sayed said: “Herbal supplements haven’t been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and aren’t as strictly regulated as medications. For example, although makers of herbal supplements must follow good manufacturing practices — to ensure that supplements are processed consistently and meet quality standards — they don’t have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before putting their products on the market,”

However, Al Sayed said that all herbs — including herbal supplement products labelled as “natural” — can have drug-like effects.

“Anything strong enough to produce a positive effect, such as lowered cholesterol or improved mood, is also strong enough to carry risk. So it’s important to do your homework and investigate potential benefits and side effects of herbal supplements before you buy them. And be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you take medications, have chronic health problems, or are pregnant or breast-feeding,” he said.

Al Sayed added that the rules do not, however, guarantee that herbal supplements are safe for anyone to use. Because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results. For this reason, it’s important to talk with your doctor before using herbal supplements.

 

FACT BOX:

• Only buy from websites that operate legally.

• Don’t buy from websites that sell prescription drugs without a prescription.

• Don’t buy from websites that offer to prescribe a drug for the first time without a physical exam by your doctor or by answering an online questionnaire.

• Look for privacy and security policies that are easy to find and easy to understand.

• Don’t give any personal information — such as a social security number, credit card information, or medical or health history — unless you are sure the website will keep your information safe and private.

• Use legitimate websites that have a licensed pharmacist to answer your question.

• Make sure that the website will not sell your personal information, unless you agree.

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