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MSD patient safety campaign tackles counterfeits

Published on 10/11/05 at 09:49am

Merck Sharp & Dohme has launched a public information campaign warning of the the dangers of buying 'lifestyle' drugs over the internet.

The pharma company says increasing numbers of UK consumers are turning to illegal internet pharmacies to buy erectile dysfunction, weight loss and hair loss treatments, without a prescription.

A survey of 1,000 people, conducted last month by Taylor Nelson Sofres for MSD, found 66% had received an email offering them medicines over the internet, but only 20% thought they could spot an unregulated e-pharmacy.

It also found only 6% thought it was good to be able to buy medicines online without a prescription.

Simon Williams of the Patients Association welcomed MSD's campaign and said: "New websites offering prescription-only medicines seem to pop up every week. For patients, the superficial attractions are convenience and a way of bypassing the need for discussion about potentially embarrassing conditions."

Demand for treatments like Propecia and Pfizer's erectile dysfunction drug Viagra have fuelled a huge increase in mail order and internet purchasing.

MSD said a significant proportion of drugs bought in this way may be counterfeit -  in 2003 the Department of Health seized £2.3 million worth of fake Viagra (sildenafil).

Williams said that buying medicines from unlicensed websites was illegal in the UK and a highly risky course of action.

The pharma company will run adverts in selected national and regional newspapers and certain consumer lifestyle magazines. It has also set up a website ( and a telephone hotline to answer any questions patients may have.

MSD medical director Dr John Young said: "As a responsible company, we believe it is essential to educate consumers on the potential risks of counterfeit medicines and to help them identify such products.

"We strongly advise patients against buying prescription-only products from unlicensed websites. To do so represents a serious potential health risk."

There are no statistics on the scale of the problem, but the FDA estimates more than 10% of the global medicine supply chain is counterfeit.

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Thursday , September 01, 2005



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