Medical products are often offered for sale on the Internet. Offering for sale and selling medical products or buying medical products from another country via the Internet may be illegal. Therefore, before buying a product, you should find out if it is legal to do so. If you are considering buying medical products through the Internet, be cautious, because you may risk your health and waste your money. Consult your health care professional before self-treatment.
There are many reasons why medical products bought through the Internet could represent a danger to you, or at the least cause inconvenience or loss of money? Ten of these reasons are discussed here.
1. Safety and efficacy assurance may be lacking
In many countries, before medical products are approved, licensed or authorized for sale, the companies that develop and market them must conduct research and demonstrate to a drug regulatory authority that the products are safe, effective and of good quality for human use. Although these authorized medical products may be available through the Internet, there may also be products for sale that have not been studied and evaluated according to the laws and regulations of your country. There is no assurance of safety and effectiveness for such unauthorized products. As an Internet user, you may find it difficult to distinguish between products that have met the requirements of your government and those that have not.
Information about medical products being developed and tested in humans is available on the Internet. If you have a disease or condition for which there is currently no treatment or cure, you may have searched for information about your disease or condition and read about these new products on the Internet. Although new products are often not available for prescription, sometimes a health care professional may prescribe a medication for you before approval, or discuss enrolling you in a clinical trial to study the product. It is important to understand that there may be additional risks to using such a product before approval, because the possible adverse effects (which may be serious or life-threatening) and the effectiveness and proper dosage schedule may not be known. In some cases, a prescription product may be unavailable in your country but approved for use in another. In such a case, your country may have special legal procedures allowing you to import prescribed medicines from abroad. This could be done with the help of your health care professional, through legitimate distribution channels.
2. Instructions for use may be inadequate
To be used properly and safely, medical products need to be accompanied by precise instructions. There is no assurance that a product obtained via the Internet will have the correct instructions for use, dosage and precautions. In addition, instructions may be printed in a language that you do not know, or may they be unreliable, out of date, or otherwise unusable.
3. Quality may not be assured
When you buy a medical product through the appropriate channels, such as through your pharmacy, you can generally rely on the product meeting manufacturing requirements and you can count on its quality - in other words - the product contains the right active ingredients and has been manufactured, packaged, transported and properly stored before you buy it. By buying medical products through the Internet, you may forfeit the quality assurance offered by authorized channels of medical product manufacturing, distribution and sales in your country.
4. Products may circumvent regulatory protections
Medical products sold through the Internet may circumvent the regulatory protection provided by health authorities and your government. You may be unable to obtain compensation from the manufacturer or distributor for any damage resulting from the use of these products. The identities and locations of the sources of the products may be disguised. This is especially common in the case of fraudulent medical products.
5. Products may be fraudulent and harmful to your health
Products promoted and offered for sale on the Internet may be fraudulent if they do not meet the standards required for approval in your country and are not sold by licensed or authorized health organizations. Using such products to treat yourself may be harmful to your health. The products may provide no benefit to your disease or condition and you may miss an opportunity to be properly treated by health care professionals. Inefficacy of a medical product is not only frustrating; it can also be dangerous. Treatment with fraudulent products may actually be harmful to your health, not just without benefit.
6. Reimbursement may not be possible
In many countries health insurance programmes may not agree to reimburse you for medical products bought through the Internet. Before you purchase a medical product through this channel, even if the product seems legitimate to you, contact your insurance or other health coverage organization to find out if the purchase would be covered and if the Internet medical product provider is recognized by your health insurer or organization.
7. Products may waste your resources
By seeking medical treatment through the Internet instead of through health care professionals, you could be wasting valuable resources - your time and money - because the treatments may not help and, therefore, your money has been wasted. In addition, you may spend valuable time in treating yourself with an ineffective product when you could have been properly treated during that time by going to a health care professional.
8. Products bought across borders may not be allowed in your country
Countries have different laws about what medical products can be sold and shipped across national borders. This means that it is possible that products that are not approved for marketing in your country or products that have been identified as a hazard to public health may not be allowed into your country if they are identified at entry. If you have already paid for the product, you may not be able to receive it or have its cost reimbursed. In addition, the prescription status of medical products varies from country to country. For instance, products that are available only on prescription in one country may be sold without prescription, or may even be unregulated, in another.
9. Products with the same name may be different in different countries
Internet users need to be aware that products with the same name may contain different ingredients in different countries. Therefore, you may be taking the wrong product. In addition, countries may have different standards for the quality of medical products and their manufacture. Products purchased across borders might not be exactly the same product or quality as in your own country.
10. Your personal information may not remain confidential
Many web sites require you to disclose personal medical data. Users must be aware that there is no assurance that this information will be kept confidential. Users who feel uncomfortable with the potential use of their personal data should purchase their medical products through conventional, legitimate distribution channels.