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Viagra to go over-the-counter: but how will you know it's real?

12/01/2018
An article outlining the safety checks that consumers should follow when buying medicines over the internet.

With the news that Viagra (or sildenafil citrate) can now be sold as an over the counter ("OTC") medicine, does this mean that our spam boxes will no longer be inundated with adverts for Viagra? Will the claims that look too good to be true stop?

The cost to buy Viagra from a pharmacy is averaging at £1.40 per pill or £16/32 depending upon pack size. This means that there is scope to undercut the price, if the consumer is not too fussy about where their medicine comes from.  However, the risks associated with purchasing a medicine from an internet site with no proven provenance (e.g. in response to an unsolicited or "spam" email) are manifold.  So, what can the consumer do to protect themselves in order to ensure that the medication is appropriate for them, they are properly advised about risks and side effects and to ensure that the medicine they purchase is not fake. 

The first option is to visit a pharmacy in person and have a consultation with a pharmacist. However, given the nature of the medicine, this may not be a step that a consumer is comfortable taking.

The second option is to use an internet pharmacy, of which there are multiple online, including many well-known high street brands. So how can the consumer ensure that this is a genuine internet pharmacy rather than a fake website?  The first thing to look for is the UK internet pharmacy logo.

This is a sign that the pharmacy premises are operated and run in the UK. This also means that the pharmacy is registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council of Great Britain ("GPhC") and clicking on this logo should link through to the online register of the GPhC.  In addition, under Directive 2001/83/EC (as amended) the pharmacy needs to be registered with the MHRA and display the EU common logo on every page on the website. 

The EU common logo will display the flag of the country where the internet pharmacy is registered; in the UK, this would be the Union Jack. Clicking on this logo will link through to the online register of the MHRA.  Any logo on a website that does not lead to these online registers should be disregarded and an alternative provider found. 

These simple checks are aimed at the protection of consumers and the desire to avoid any contra-indications or unwanted side effects. The time taken to follow the logo links is minimal and the benefit of obtaining an authentic product should lead to satisfaction all round. 

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