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Surge in web drug illnesses

A quarter of doctors have treated patients made unwell by drugs bought over the internet, according to a report.

The unregulated nature of the internet means the purchase of medicines from the web is fraught with dangers, as many sites offer fake drugs and push online medical “experts” who are found to have no professional qualifications.

More than two million UK residents regularly buy medicines over the internet, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB).

The society says patients are being put at risk from counterfeit, substandard or unapproved new drugs. The most common of these bought on the net include treatments for erectile dysfunction and depression.

A survey of 423 doctors for GP newspaper found 85% thought online pharmacies needed to be more tightly regulated.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP in west London and spokeswoman for the Royal College of GPs, said: "Surveys looking at many online medications suggest that the proportion of counterfeits is enormously high and that many of them contain very worrying ingredients."

Dr Bill Beeby, prescribing lead for the British Medical Association's GPs' committee, described buying drugs on the internet as a minefield, adding he would not advise any of his patients to take up that practice.

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