Antibiotic resistance could be potentially fuelled by online pharmacies

imperial college london logoThe researchers from the Imperial College London have analysed 20 pharmacies that were accessible for ordering from by UK citizens online. The study conducted by Imperial College London is one of the few that take a closer look at online availability of antibiotics and the potential impact it could have on the public health.

Antibiotics are classed as prescription only medicines in the UK, so they cannot be legally sold to consumers without a valid prescription. The researchers found that although online versions of UK high street pharmacies were compliant with prescription regulations, 80% of the online pharmacies surveyed let customers choose their dosages, duration and choice of antibiotic treatments. The results of which can lead to serious side effects in patients and increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is one the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The study was carried out by academics from Imperial College London’s NIHR Health Protection Research Unit for Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance, and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The research team carried out initiated the study by entering the search term ‘buy antibiotics online’ into Google and Yahoo and then analysing the 20 pharmacies at the top of the search. The team recognise that although the study is just a ‘snapshot’ of the online pharmacy industry, it does provide insights into how it operates.

Dr Sara Boyd, a co-author and NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Imperial, said: “These findings are a real concern, and raise several important issues regarding antibiotic resistance and patient safety with online pharmacies.”

All online medicine vendors selling to UK consumers must by law register with both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the General Pharmaceutical Council. However, the researchers found that 75% of online pharmacies included in the study lacked evidence of the appropriate registration status required by law.

In other findings, the researchers discovered that 45% of the online pharmacies analysed did not require a prescription from the patient. Whilst only 30% of websites in the survey asked consumers to complete a health questionnaire prior to purchase.

The study also revealed 70% of the websites provided information on the safe usage of prescription medications, including potential side effects or adverse reactions when combined with other drugs.

Professor Alison Holmes, of Imperial’s Department of Medicine, added: “Improper use of antibiotics can mean that infections are not being treated appropriately, or that people are being unnecessarily exposed to antibiotics. This allows bacteria to become resistant to drugs that once killed them. As a result, it is essential that antibiotics are prescribed only when they are needed.”

All online pharmacies identified as illegally selling antibiotics to patients within the UK were reported to the MHRA, who promptly responded. The researchers are working together with numerous stakeholders to improve patient safety and antibiotic stewardship in this area. Anyone with a concern concerns about an online pharmacy should contact the MHRA directly.

Source – World Pharma News

Industry News