‘Several’ life-threatening cases
Cases of patients whose lives were put at risk by use of illicit prescription and other drugs has prompted health officials to warn against buying medications from unlicensed dealers.
Health Services Authority Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema issued the health and safety warning last week to alert the public to the dangers of buying prescription and other drugs from unlicensed dealers.
Dr. Hoeksema said the warning was issued after “several cases over time where patients have suffered life-threatening conditions resulting from drugs procured locally from unauthorised persons”.
He said only registered healthcare professionals such as physicians, dentists, optometrists and podiatrists can prescribe medicine.
“Unless designated to do so by the law, it is illegal to give out prescription medication to anyone. “Moreover, many drugs, even over-the-counter, can produce adverse consequences, from side effects to allergic reactions and other potential risks, including death,” he said.
“Our recommendation, therefore, is to always check with your doctor or pharmacist about how, when and where to take medications.”
Dr. Hoeksema advised consumers to also check the labelling of all drugs they buy.
“Take the necessary steps. If it is not labelled, do not take it; if it is labelled, but looks unfamiliar or comes from an unknown source, research the drug or ask your pharmacist before taking it,” he said.
Beware of fakes
Counterfeit drugs are also causes for concern locally.
Chairman of the Pharmacy Council David Pellow said patients should beware of counterfeit drugs sold over the Internet or imported illegally.
“There are many unscrupulous manufacturers, distributors and suppliers in the world today and the counterfeit drug business is threatening the chances of improved health for the public,” he said.
He added: “Many of these illegal pharmaceuticals do not contain any or the appropriate amount of active ingredients and may even contain harmful ingredients, so please make sure you know what you take.”
Mr. Pellow said pharmacists trained for four to six years and were registered and licensed by government, so members of the public should go to them to buy “authentic and quality” medication.
“Unfortunately, people think they’re saving a couple of dollars by buying from other sources and they think that’s good. They trust whoever is selling the drug, I guess,” he said.
But in some cases, this can be detrimental, with patients not getting what they think they’re getting.
He added that people were buying drugs over the Internet and selling them on, sometimes not knowing this was illegal. He cited a case of a person who the Pharmacy Council found out was selling Cialis, a drug meant to treat erectile dysfunction.
“The Pharmacy Council said to him ‘you are not a licensed pharmacist, you shouldn’t be dealing in this medication, it’s prescription only’. They thought they could just bring it in and sell it,” he said.
He also urged parents to keep an eye on the medications in their homes. A recent study by the National Drug Council showed the number of middle and high school students using prescription drugs, including tranquillisers that they obtained in their own home, was growing.
“You have to safeguard your medicines within your own home. Keep track of how many tablets you take and how many should be left. If there’s a discrepancy, lock up the medication,” he said.
A press release issued by the Government Information Service contained the following advice:
Before taking medication, ask these questions:
What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
When and how do I take it?
Should I avoid alcohol, any other medications, foods, and/or activities?
What are the common side effects?
What are the dangerous side effects and what should I do if these happen?
Before taking medication, be sure to:
Know what your medication is supposed to do. Should it eliminate the illness or cope with the symptoms?
Read the label. Ask the pharmacist if you think what you’ve been given is not what the doctor prescribed, or is the incorrect amount or dosage.
Heed any label warnings, such as taking medications before or after eating, or vehicle driving / equipment operating safety.
Keep prescription and nonprescription medications out of children’s reach.
Keep medications in their original childproof containers so you will have the label, instructions, expiration date and information for ordering a refill, as needed.