Home diagnostic test kits sold over the internet may be misleading patients, research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine shows.
Evaluating 168 websites marketing home diagnostic kits found that most provided poor quality information to the general public, leading to the potential for misdiagnosis.
"Home diagnostic medical tests are part of a rapidly growing market of health-related products available for purchase on the internet," say the study authors.
"Despite their increasing popularity there are concerns that inadequate, misleading or confusing advertisements can potentially result in approximate use of these tests and lead to false reassurance or unnecessary anxiety, which may have serious health consequences."
Information on the accuracy of home diagnostic tests and instructions for use were found on half of websites, with only 8.9% providing a scientific reference.
Only a quarter of websites highlighted what action should be taken after obtaining the test result.
"Not all diagnostic tests marketed online are reliable," says study author Adrija Datta.
"As our study showed, the available guidance is far from being implemented and followed across the globe.
"There needs to be ongoing auditing and quality assurance of any guidelines."