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No-prescription Internet pharmacies dangerous to consumers’ health, new study shows

New evidence shows that it’s risky to take prescription medication not prescribed to you. A study looking at the use of a prescription drug purchased by traditional means versus buying online without a prescription found that there were more adverse health effects in the patients ordering from the Internet. Researchers surveyed patients who had obtained the prescription-only non-scheduled painkiller Tramadol via the traditional doctor-patient-pharmacy model or via the Internet without a prescription from their doctor. In an online survey the patients completed, 7% of the Tramadol users who bought the drug online reported health problems, which included life-threatening seizures, whereas none who had obtained the drug from a doctor’s prescription reported negative health effects.

Several major rogue or unapproved Internet pharmacy networks — including RxPayouts, Health Solutions Network, Pill Checks, Pill Program, RxCashCow, NetBizBucks, MottoNetwork, PGW Management and others — focus heavily on promoting the sale of Tramadol without requiring a valid prescription based on a prior in-person examination of the patient.

The study also points out that a lack of doctor oversight likely explains the occurrence of seizures, which are rare in patients being treated for pain with Tramadol (less than 1%), as well as another finding: that the nontraditional users reported more intense opioid withdrawal symptoms when they stopped taking the drug.

The researchers concluded that “although online pharmacies can offer distinct advantages in terms of convenience and cost, users of these ‘rogue’ pharmacies that offer drugs with no prescription or doctor supervision do so at great risk to their health, as evidenced by much higher rates of adverse events.”

The Journal of Medical Internet Research has the full study.