More must be done to shut down online sites selling dangerous medication, experts have warned.

A review of coroners’ records from the last 10 years found that 20 reports contained concerns about the dangers of online pharmacies.

One coroner warned in 2014 that more people will die “unless steps are taken by central government to screen and close down websites” selling non-prescribed medication.

As well as unlicensed drugs, the investigation found that prescription-only and highly addictive medicines can be bought on UK and overseas websites.

This is despite a number of deaths during the last decade linked to unregulated online pharmacies.

Researchers from The Pharmaceutical Journal looked at coroners’ Regulation 28 reports – or ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ reports – for mentions of internet and online pharmacy.

Through their investigation, they found drugs bought online included opioid acetyl fentanyl, which is 15 times more potent than morphine, the so-called ‘diet pill’ 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) and the strong painkiller codeine.

Experts have warned that dangers also lie in the fact that people can order medication from different sites in quick succession, along with a lack of requirement for prescribers to get in touch with a purchaser’s GP.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said: “Each of them [the providers] can be doing more or less a good job at mitigating the risks associated with each transaction, but nobody’s in a position to put the whole picture together…then there’s a kind of a concatenation of risks that come together.”

Government officials say efforts have been made to stem the online sale of drugs, including shutting down one site used to buy drugs which led to the death of 24-year-old Jason Houghton. The paramedic died nine years ago after taking benzodiazepines to help him sleep while working irregular shift patterns.

Yet The Pharmaceutical Journal discovered that the website, which is based in Pakistan, is still offering prescription-only medicine, including diazepam for US$5.99 and tramadol for US$7.50.

Jason’s father Keith said: “How many others have died since Jason, in 2014? How many more parents have grieved since then because those sites selling drugs to our kids have still been accessible at the click of a button?

“Unless there are tighter controls implemented, then the problem is not going to be solved.”

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) works with other organisations worldwide to crack down on online sales in medicine.

The Interpol-led campaign saw more than 4,000 websites shut down last year.

Andy Morling, MHRA deputy director of criminal enforcement, said: “The MHRA’s Criminal Enforcement Unit works hard, in collaboration with law enforcement, wider government and cross-sector partners both at home and abroad, to help protect the public and defeat this harmful trade.”

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…

Type 2 diabetes found to be a ‘significant risk factor’ among stroke victims

More evidence has been published which supports that diabetes is a “significant…

Public Health England considers low carb approach for type 2 diabetes

The low carb approach is being considered by the government to be…