Risks of buying herbal remedies online

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There is a higher risk of buying a poor-quality herbal remedy when buying over the internet.

  • You might be sold a fake that does nothing, or worse, is dangerous.
  • You might receive the remedy but it might no be right for you
  • You could be treating a symptom to something more serious.

Drugs and herbal remedies sold online may contain active ingredients, banned ingredients and toxic substances. They may be copies of licensed drugs but made in unlicensed factories with no quality control. Some websites may appear to be legitimate but are fronted by bogus doctors or pharmacists.

More information on safe searching can be found in Health Clicks, a mini-manual produced for Men's Health Week.

Health Clicks (external link)

Since 2005, the MHRA has tested 138 unlicensed 'herbal' remedies sold as treatments for erectile dysfunction. Of the products tested, 65% (89) were found to contain prescription only medicines, such as sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil or their analogues (chemically related compounds), or lignocaine. Quantities varied widely and in some cases amounted to what would be regarded as toxic overdose levels of prescription medicines.

If you suffer from a heart condition, these ingredients could cause serious harm to your health.

If you have experienced this condition you can find out more about causes and treatments on NHS Choices (external link)





You might be sold a fake that does nothing, or worse, is dangerous

The MHRA is responsible for tracking down and prosecuting the people behind the impressive websites and emails promising to cure your ailments.

Behind the high-tech websites featuring earnest doctors in white coats are garages, lock ups and appalling hygiene practices.

“In one place a man was replacing his clutch on one side of the garage and packing medicine on the other” said Mick Deats”, Head of Enforcement at MHRA.

At any one time the MHRA have under surveillance about 100 websites which sell into the UK from which a test purchase is made and then tested in the laboratory. From 100 test purchases:

  • 15 never arrived
  • 10 resulted in identity theft or credit card details being stolen
    Did you know that in 2010, the MHRA made 378 interceptions of unlicensed erectile dysfunction drugs and seized 2,173,442 tablets?
  • 15 orders received but with a different product to the one ordered.

Of those tested “many include unlicensed products that are not licensed and not authorised for sale such as herbs, or that include prescription only ingredients” says Mick Deats.

To report a suspected counterfeit herbal or pharmaceutical medicine contact the MHRAs dedicated 24-hour hotline on 0203 080 6701 or email counterfeit@mhra.gsi,gov.uk and reference “Stay Safe”.

You might receive the remedy but it might not be right for you.
With increase in information on the internet, people are increasingly going online to check their symptoms and research possible treatments.

Case Study: A man collapsed after consuming a herbal product called Tian Li, which claimed to give sexual enhancement. He was also taking Viagra on prescription. Whilst no permanent ill health was suffered by him, the result of our analysis showed the presence of hydroxyhomosildenafil and tadalafil which are prescription only ingredients. These ingredients can interfere with heart medication and can be fatal for some people.

Page last modified: 07 July 2011