20pc put health at risk with 'illegal' medicine
ONE-in-five Irish people may be putting their health at risk by buying €86m worth of prescription-only medicines from "illicit sources" every year, a new report claimed yesterday.
Around 600,000 people are now purchasing medicines without a prescription from sources like the internet, even though it is illegal to do so.
They are also buying these medicines, without a prescription, while abroad; through a friend; in response to an email; or at a nightclub, the survey of 1,000 Irish people found.
Drugs for impotence, weight-loss, flu, chronic pain and smoking cessation are the top sellers in the counterfeit market, according to the European research by the drug company Pfizer.
The reasons why so many are turning to these sources are mostly due to price followed by avoidance of the "hassle" of going to a doctor, convenience and speed of delivery.
However, the report warned that the medicines from these unregulated sources could contain harmful ingredients like poison, boric acid and lead-based road paint.
They may also have too little or excess active ingredient and some may have none of these essential properties at all.
"Shockingly, one in seven people in Ireland surveyed, which equates to over 400,000 in the population, don't acknowledge that taking prescription-only medicine without a prescription is a risky activity," the report said.
"And almost 300,000 people admit they would consider purchasing prescription-only medicine without a prescription over the internet.
"This is despite 64pc being concerned about risks to health and 47pc worried about the effectiveness of the medication."
It pointed out that in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of counterfeit medicines reaching the public across Europe through illicit sources.
Seizures at EU borders have risen from just over half a million in 2005 to over four million in 2007.
"More recently, 34 million fake tablets were seized on European borders in just two months," the report said.
"The trade in counterfeit medicine sales has exploded and it is now estimated that global counterfeit drug sales will reach $75bn (€54.5bn) by 2014.
"Men are fuelling the problem in Ireland, with 24pc admitting to buying prescription-only medicine without prescription, compared to 18pc of women," the report added.
"Amongst people in Ireland who admitted to purchasing prescription-only medicines without prescription, more than a third of purchases (36pc) were made over the internet."
The extent of the market here indicates that gardai and customs officers are only making a small dent into the trade.
The Irish Medicines Board's annual report for 2008 showed it seized a total of 299,053 tablets, 55,789 capsules, 24 litres of liquids and 36.5kg of creams.