UK Study Finds Fake Online Pharmacies May Feed Antibiotic Resistance

Image courtesy of CDC.

A small-scale study in the United Kingdom has found that 75% of the assessed online pharmacies that offer drugs for sale in the UK are unregistered as legitimate pharmacies, and most offer antibiotics without a prescription. This finding could be a serious driver of microbial resistance.

Obtaining Antibiotics Online from within the UK: a Cross-Sectional Study published this February, has illustrated how fake online pharmacies may be driving antibiotic resistance by prescribing antibiotics of unknown strength, origin, or composition without requiring a prescription. According to the authors, where the online pharmacies were located outside the United Kingdom, 50% were operating in an unidentifiable location.

An analysis of the study by Science Daily noted that antibiotics are illegally available without prescription on 45% of the online pharmacies the study surveyed.

Science Daily spoke to Dr. Sarah Boyd, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Infectious Diseases at Imperial College of London and a co-author of the study who explained, “These findings are a real concern, and raise several important issues regarding antibiotic resistance and patient safety with online pharmacies.”

A similar study conducted in the United States in 2009 found that 36% of online pharmacies surveyed at that time were selling antibiotics without a prescription to American patients.