Can anyone stop the illegal sale of medicines online? (BMJ)

Just happened across this new article in the BMJ. Sadly, and as so often, we cannot see all of it, but what is accessible without payment/registration is of great relevance to so many here.

Remember that you can click on the Responses tab to see any that have been made. Even if you can't read the whole article.

Can anyone stop the illegal sale of medicines online?

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 07 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1317

Demand for and supply of unlicensed drugs online continues to grow despite regulators’ constant attempts to crack down on illegal activity, Andrew Jack reports

32 Replies

  • Counterfeit meds sold on ebay should be stopped, you'd have to be mad to risk your life for the sake of an erection. Unlicenced meds? Again, it seems like Russion roulette.

  • Heirloom, counterfeit meds should be stopped everywhere and manufacturers, distributors and sellers prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    NDT is unlicensed in the UK but some brands are licensed in the USA and Canada. Tiromel and Uni-Pharma are available OTC in Turkey and Greece respectively, but neither are licensed for UK use.

  • My understanding of unlicenced meds is that they haven't gone through the clinical trials needed to treat that condition. NDT (certainly Armour) is available on a named patient basis for thyroid conditions.

    The way I interpreted the bit of the article on show is people buying potentially dangerous meds for unrelated conditions e.g. My best mate's mum's hairdresser said NDT was great for giving your face a "botoxed look" so people buy it and harm themselves.

  • So far as I am aware, that status would apply to Thyroid S, Thiroyd and T RMan (or whatever the third Thai product is called). We know nothing of their development, manufacture or standards. Many seem to do well on them but unlicensed certainly seems applicable.

  • They could be classed as generics though and they have a generic licence.

    I'm not worried about this, it takes man hours and money and there's always bigger fish to fry.

    Fake drugs will be the first port of call as that actually costs big pharma revenue.

  • So far as I am aware, a licence is a licence is a licence. An application for a brand-new product is more closely scrutinised but once a product with a particular active ingredient has been available for some time, competitor products still have to apply individually.

    The product licence includes details way beyond the list of ingredients we see and might include elements specific to each product.

    Also, though it is very often missed or forgotten, a licence is issued for a combination of a specific product and a medical issue.

  • Yes exactly but there are different types of licences.

    They want to crack down on say, Metformin being used by non type 2 diabetics as a diet aid. I guess if you're at the coal face and seeing people being brought in 'cause they've bought meds online for conditions they don't have and being in mortal danger, then it's probably the right thing to do to try and stop this from happening.

    However, there'll always be loop holes and ingenious ways to get the products to customers for online pharmacies where desperate people and money are involved.

  • NDT I read is classed as non prescription, dietry supplement in Thailand, but I was quite concerned when I heard illegal highs were to be banned as I wondered if NDT and T3 might be classed the same, though so far, thank goodness they haven't been banned.

  • Have thyroid meds of any kind ever made you high? I must be missing out, it never happens to me.

  • If I take too much NDT as I have done in the past they make me go hyper active, I feel on a 'high' all day, with boundless energy.

    Not that I can go on like that as I know my body is on too high a dose.

    T3 I have seen advertised on Body building sites, hence why I was a bit concerned they would try and class our T3 and NDT as 'highs' I would not class them as highs, but I was concerned others above might class them as so to try to stop us from buying them.

  • The STTM guide gives some info about what they comprise:

    but I guess that does not cover your 3 key points Helvella.

  • I got the botoxed look on Levothyroxine, but am fine on unlicensed NDT lol

  • Lol! I just got the brain dead look on Levo :0)

  • Brain dead and dead body on levo lol.xx

  • That "Walking Dead" look.

  • Armour and 2 more, ndt's are very widely used in the USA. They are fully licensed, tested and ndt, has been used for over 100 years, reliably. can make those with hashi's so much sicker.

  • I was being highly specific about the Thai products.

    Yes - the USA and Canadian products are a different kettle of fish altogether.

  • ok

  • Do you think they'll target the Thai products? God help me if they do I I have found ThyroidS a lifesaver

  • No - my point was that the Thai products do not have licences from organisations which would be widely accepted. (Not at all clear what the Thai regime is in this regard. Do they have a licence there? Are they "dietary supplements"? Does anyone look or care? Is it all down to product reputation amongst customers?)

    It seems feasible that products with licences could be more susceptible to action against them. They are identifiable, known products and can easily be specified in legislation. Unknown products can be like "legal highs" - ever-changing and difficult to pin down.

  • I understand the point you are making now Helvella. They must be honourable in some way cos I find them good quality and very reliable.

  • Oh Dear! There would not be such desperation if the UK guidelines permitted an alternative if not well on levothyroxine and stopped dictating the TSH as 'perfect diagnosis' and get back to treating patients and not a computer print-out.

    They should not also make False Statements about natural dessicated thyroid hormones, some being in place for more than 75 years. One in particular has never been recalled for any reason, whereas levothyroxine has been recalled many times.

    Bodybuilders might source a certain product to give them bigger muscles/lose weight but others who need them for 'life' are denied.

  • I have given up my experiment with Thyroid S , as I noticed no difference on 2 grains,or 3 grains but very heavy and more breathless and my residual balance problems remained.

    Still I have some extra T4 now and will be able to try a Winter increase.

    Re using drugs inappropriately noted Sharapova's confession. She said she had taken the drug for ten years for diabetes and had not noticed it was illegal from January.

    A chap on Newsnight reckoned there were rather a lot of sportspeople taking the drug as it enhanced performance and it was dubious that they needed it for medical reasons.

  • ...unless a large percentage of athletes have heart conditions (lol). I wonder if ventolin is on the band list seeing as it would give you more lung capacity?

  • It seems that erectile dysfunction pills make-up the majority of illegal pharmaceuticals: "The nature of the drugs sold and seized by investigators highlights the motivations of the purchasers: purported erectile dysfunction pills account for the largest volume (£11m of the £12.2m in drugs confiscated by the MHRA in April-December last year), followed by weight loss treatments. Abortion pills, hair loss products, and antidepressants have also been identified. These drugs suggest demand primarily from people who would never be given prescriptions by doctors, coupled with those who may feel embarrassed to seek medical advice"

    The last couple of lines make for sad reading.

  • Well I'm just thinking that I might have to get a drug illegally (without prescription) for my son to try to rescue him from a number of conditions. It has been recommended as the right drug to try by an nhs consultant at St Thomas's, last year, who said sadly though he couldnt prescribe it himself - I assume due to the cost, it is pregabalin. His gp has said someone has to actually prescribe it, you 'have to jump through hoops' to get it. He has crippling anxiety, severe, often daily panic attacks usually lasting an hour, restless legs syndrome and tinnitus, as a result of which he spent nine months last year researching how to kill himself. It has taken three years to get as far as someone recommending a drug that might help. In that time his schooling completely failed.

    now he faces yet more delay .. I could go private or just throw my hands up and go on the internet and help him immediately.

    So my message to the pompous, self satisfied men earning large salaries and general respect while patients like my son and many others suffer, who think patients are all irresponsible, and would like to keep us further caged in their highly dangerous system is - burn in hell.

  • I feel for you and your son Aspmama... The side-effects of this medicine are very alarming though...are you able to clarify with whoever first mentioned it just why it he/she thinks it could help but also why it can't be prescribed? I wonder if the cost is the main issue or whether there are other considerations?

  • have you tried it catrich? It has very good reviews by users for anxiety. It is prescribed off licence for rls here, it is recommended by the international rls body and is widely used in the states. It is also used for GAD, and for Panic Disorder. It seems like a very good fit and definitely worth a try. The side effect of increased ideation affects a vanishingly small no. Without effectve treatment he will kill himself in the next few years anyway, I think. But obviously I would watch him carefully.

    Some official sites and reports from those taking it say it is not addictive, though i see opiod druggies may get addicted to it. So I don't know why pulse says it is addictive -maybe gps are prescribing it to whinging druggies, or heart sink patients, as one pulse gp describes all those on pregabalin.

    I can't ask the consultant as he won't see us again till May. the pulse piece strongly suggests cost is the problem. The whinging from gps in the comments is depressing to read.

  • Pregabalin has become a major issue in the NHS for a few reasons.

    If you have registered to read Pulse (which is worth doing if you haven't - it's free) then this might explain some of the issues :

    There has also been an extremely expensive patent dispute between the NHS and the manufacturers, Pfizer, which the NHS lost :

  • Thanks humanbean. The more I read Pulse, the more I reached for my revolver.

  • I hope you've found help for your son by now, as your post is 2 years old. I'm wondering if you have come across a Food Mood expert and Nutritionist called Trudy Scott? She may have some helpful information and focuses on helping people with anxiety

    I would have pm'd you, but was unable to, sorry, I know my reply is off topic :~)

  • Yes, it's a shame that we're unable to read the complete paper and so frustrating to read only a small part.

    An interesting response has been made online, the first one too.

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