Purchasing counterfeit medicine over the internet is risking the health of millions of people, despite regulated drugs being available on prescription, industry figures have warned.
Research preceding a hard-hitting joint campaign by a group including drug companies and industry regulators found one in seven adults has avoided the healthcare system to obtain prescription drugs.
In response, the campaign will highlight the possibility that drugs available online may be dangerous or offer no medical benefits.
The majority of doctors quizzed said the practice was placing people's health and potentially lives at risk as some of the medicines obtained may be counterfeit.
Fake medicines can contain harmful ingredients such as rat poison and lead paint, and can be prescribed and created by inexperienced people. They can cause harm to patients, leading to death in some cases, the research said.
The Get Real, Get A Prescription campaign is a joint initiative by Pfizer, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), the Patients Association and HEART UK.