Experts: Drugs for chronic diseases bought online can put health at risk
PETALING JAYA: Many people are willing to risk buying alternative drugs online to treat chronic conditions.
Among the reasons given for such purchases is the lower price to treat long-term illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure. But many are unaware of the danger of using drugs that come from the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Thailand.
The acting president-elect of the Federation of Asian Pharmaceutical Associations, Lim Jack Shen, said these parallel drugs were openly sold on Facebook, Telegram and WhatsApp despite not having obtained approval from the Ministry of Health.
“Previously, parallel drugs were available on e-commerce sites, but thanks to the vigilance of the authorities and the cooperation of these platforms, the problem has been solved.
“Once purchased, the drugs are sent into the country via hand luggage or parcels. It is very difficult to check every package in the country due to the high volume processed every day.
“People buy them because they’re cheaper, especially if they have chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure,” he told The Star.
Lim pointed out the dangers of consuming these drugs as they were not registered in Malaysia. Therefore, they may not meet the strict manufacturing standards set by the National Drug Regulatory Agency (NPRA).
Drug stability is also a concern because consumers will not know where they came from and, more importantly, how they were stored before they reach buyers. The ministry requires the sale or supply of drugs, including those online. platforms which contain Group B and C poisons under the First Schedule of the Poisons Act 1952 to comply with the provisions of the Poisons Act 1952 and its regulations. They must also comply with the Sales of Drugs Act 1952 and the Control of Drugs and Cosmetic Regulations 1984.
The sale or supply of medicines containing poisons on e-commerce platforms is not allowed according to the provisions of the law. This can only be done at the physical premises specified in the license subject to limitation requirements. Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) President Amrahi Buang said almost all types of drugs are available online, although there are laws regulating them.
“Controlled drugs that are not allowed to be sold online are available. There are also nutritional products or supplements as well as traditional or complementary medicines. “Malaysia also has laws relating to online sales or e-commerce under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. All medicines must be registered in Malaysia by the NPRA. Thus, parallel importation of unregistered products is against the law,” he said.
To address the issue, he said MPS has a memorandum of understanding with Shopee and Lazada to audit pharmacy vendors on sales of non-toxic products.
He added that the rampant sale of alternative medicine online is also a global problem that needs to be addressed.
“It is not a safe practice to buy drugs online. There is no evidence of good manufacturing practices and they may also be fake.
“There are also issues that are prevalent among certain products. For those using marketed home remedies, they may not include indications for consumption or comply with regulatory requirements,” Amrahi said, adding that public education on this issue needs to be increased.
The President of the Malaysian Medical Association, Dr Koh Kar Chai, said: “People should be reminded that scheduled drugs will require a prescription even if purchased online. These items will need to be scrutinized carefully, as cases of counterfeit products are not uncommon.
“Don’t assume that drugs bought online will be much cheaper than those bought by prescription at a pharmacy. Once shipping costs are factored in, you may find that the actual cost is only slightly cheaper,” Dr Koh said. People should also ensure that drugs advertised online are registered with the NPRA. Unregistered products may not have the desired pharmacological effect and may even be harmful.
Alternative drugs are manufactured legally but imported with or without the authorization of the manufacturers. All medicines brought into the country must be registered with the Medicines Control Agency (DCA).
Consumers can look up the registration number issued by the DCA to verify if a particular medicine has been brought into the country by parallel importers.
Parallel import for product registration must be justified to the DCA if the same product has been registered in the country.