The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have recently published figures that show 3.5 million unlicensed erectile dysfunction pills were seized in 2019. 

In an official press release published on the 3rd March, 2020, the MHRA say that ‘erectile problems in general affect up to 21% of men in the UK, which is equivalent to 4.3 million men in the UK. Despite this, it has been found that 44% of men with ED aged 40 and over have not sought medical help and may be buying fake products online.’[1]

Counterfeit, illicit and/or unlicensed medicinal treatment has been a prominent problem for a number of years, particularly in relation to the rise of the internet. There are a number of reasons for this, one such being that more people than ever are using the internet to better understand their health issues. 

Some people search online, also, to find medicinal treatment and prescriptions. In relation to erectile dysfunction medicine, some men feel purchasing online can be more comfortable, convenient or discreet. 

However, buying medicine online can come with risks. Some providers are unregistered and sell illicit or unlicensed treatments. By ‘unregistered’, this means an online pharmacy in the UK which is not registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council of England (GPhC). 

Treated.com is registered with the GPhC, and our registration number is 9010946. We’re also regulated by the Care and Quality Commission to ensure we deliver the best health service possible. Websites registered and regulated with these bodies should display the following logos, which help to provide an added layer of safety and security. 

                  

Buying unlicensed medication online is dangerous because it’s virtually impossible to know what ingredients the medicine contains, what the possible side effects may be and whether it’s safe to take these medicines with others. 

What does an illicit online seller look like?

Part of the problem with illicit online pharmaceutical providers is that some websites give the appearance of looking like legitimate sellers. However, the first thing to look for is the badges mentioned above. 

Also read their online content thoroughly. If you notice spelling mistakes or misinformation, or a general lack of attention to critical detail, then you may be on an illicit site. Also look for broad or sweeping claims such as ‘no side effects’ (all medications have the potential to cause side effects) or ‘buy one get one free’ (pharmacies aren’t allowed to offer free medicines). 

Currently, the main forms of erectile dysfunction treatment are pills and injectables. There are no licensed erectile dysfunction ‘jellies’ in the UK. 

Illicit pharmacies may also display highly unrealistic prices because the medicine they offer is not genuine. If the prices displayed seem too good to be true, then the chances are they are. Also check the site you’re visiting isn’t offering ‘deals’ on free treatment, or your first pack of treatment for free. These are tactics employed by illegitimate sellers. 

It is illegal for private pharmaceutical providers to offer deals or promotions on prescription only medication. The only licensed non-prescription treatment for erectile dysfunction in the UK is Viagra Connect. 

Current legislation also prevents online sellers from publishing pictures of individual pills or medication on the homepage of their websites. Any site doing this is acting outside of the law and should be avoided. 

Check for dosage information too. If you manage to purchase a pill, or number of pills, online and you can’t easily find the dosage and safety information for the treatment you’ve ordered - then this may be cause for concern. The majority of erectile dysfunction treatments come in a number of doses and strengths, issued dependent on the severity of symptoms and health, including 2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg, 25mg, 50mg and 100mg. 

Furthermore, look at their safety information and cross-reference this against a patient information leaflet for the same medication and dose. Most information leaflets can easily be accessed on the Electronic Medicines Compendium (EMC) website. Ensure all safety information displayed is accurate. 

Lastly, check if the website’s clinical process is overseen by a practicing prescriber or doctor. All prescribers are issued with a GPhC registration number, which you can look up online. All general practitioners must be registered with the General Medical Council, and their registration numbers can be looked up also. Most legitimate online pharmacies overseen by real medical professionals will typically be happy to publish and/or provide this information. 

Only medical professionals registered with either the GMC or GPhC are qualified to offer UK prescriptions. Excluding Viagra Connect, all licenced erectile dysfunction treatment must be prescribed. If you're not looking to renew a pre-existing prescription, a medical professional must issue you with one. To do so, they must assess your health and symptoms to determine the suitability of treatment. Online, this often takes the form of a clinical questionnaire. 

If you are able to order prescription-only erectile dysfunction treatment online without having to answer some questions about your health and symptoms beforehand, you may be ordering from an unregistered seller. While Viagra Connect is an over-the-counter treatment, you should still expect to be asked some questions about your health and symptoms. 

In following all of the above, people will drastically reduce their chances of buying illicit or illegal medical treatment online. 

What do the experts say?

On the recent figures showing that 3.5 million illegal erectile pills were seized in 2019, Mark Jackson, MHRA Head of Enforcement, said that “fake ED drugs might not give you the result you want or even make you ill. Any medication bought from an unregistered website may be fake and will not meet quality and safety standards. We encourage people not to take a chance with fake medicines – make sure you are buying from a legitimate source.”

Statement from GP clinical lead at Treated.com Dr. Daniel Atkinson: 

“It’s troubling to read this report and see that so many men are still falling victim to the dangers illegal online pharmaceutical retailers pose. In visiting these illicit sites and buying these erectile dysfunction medicines, which are at the very least medicinally questionable and at the very most highly dangerous, men are risking their health, safety and wellbeing. 

Men suffering with this condition, or any person suffering with any condition, deserves a high quality of care, respect and dignity in disclosing their symptoms and personal information online. Unlicensed online providers abuse those principles, and exist fundamentally to profit from other people’s misfortune. 

In following the steps outlined in this article, people seeking to purchase medicine online will help to ensure they’re doing so legally and safely, and will also create a safer online environment as a consequence.”

 

[1] Gov.uk, Medicine and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, official press release, “New figures show 3.5 million unlicensed erection pills seized in 2019’, published 3/3/20, acc: 3/3/20