A major public awareness campaign aimed at highlighting the dangers of buying prescription medicines online needs to be launched, a TD has said.
According to Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, while it is widely known that it is illegal to buy prescription medicines online, the dangers associated with this practice ‘may be lost on many who feel that if they are continuing to take prescriptions that have initially been prescribed by their doctor, they are out of harm's way'.
Ms Mitchell O'Connor made her comments after receiving a reply to a parliamentary question (PQ) from the Department of Health. It revealed that when it comes to the oral contraceptive pill, a drug widely used by thousands of women in Ireland, the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has received six reports of patients who have died due to clotting-related complications.
"For one of those fatalities, the patient was reported to have purchased the contraceptive online and had other risk factors that could have contraindicated the use of any oral contraceptive," the PQ reply stated.
Ms Mitchell O'Connor emphasised that people must remain under the supervision of a doctor while taking prescription medicines.
"Taking meds for a long time might not always be the best option and the changes that occur in your body over time when taking a prescription medicine, simply have to be monitored regularly," she said.
The IMB works closely with the Gardai and the Revenue's Customs Service in an attempt to prevent the illegal importation of prescription medicines into this country, however, some drugs still make it in.
In relation to the oral contraceptive pill, last year alone, there were 63 seizures of Yasmin, 63 seizures of Yasminelle and 147 seizures of Yarina.
"This does not take account of the other medicines, prescription or otherwise, that people are attempting to ship into the country, such as slimming and tanning tablets, the effects of which we know little about," Ms Mitchell O'Connor said.
She reminded people that by buying medicines online, ‘you are quite simply taking your life in your own hands'.
"The damage that can be done is immeasurable and in some cases can be fatal. I am calling for the Minister for Health to consider undertaking a public awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of engaging in such practices, which could see unsuspecting consumers paying with their life," she said.
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