Self medication - buyers beware

Australian doctors have warned Internet users against buying drugs online. They caution that many "health" websites do not provide adequate information about the medicines they retail

 
Published: Thursday 15 May 2003

Self-Medication

Australian doctors have warned Internet users against buying drugs online. They caution that many "health" websites do not provide adequate information about the medicines they retail.

A recent survey of 104 e-pharmacies found that 41 sites did not offer any advice on their products. About 70 of the websites provided some information but on 53 of them, the quality of data was too poor to benefit consumers.

The poll, conducted in 13 countries, revealed that less than a third of the sites gave disease-related information. While 27 sites sold St John's wort -- a medicine that treats mild depression -- only three cautioned consumers that intake of the drug in combination with other pills for heart disease, epilepsy and contraception could prove to be potentially harmful.

Practice standards for e-pharmacies selling over-the-counter medication are already in place in a few countries, including Australia and the us . But the survey found that few websites were adhering to them. The study also warns that browsing the Internet for advice on self-medication "is currently not safe".

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