Countless medications are available over-the-counter or on the Internet. Doing a quick Google search we can find analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, or antivirals. Institutions such as the IMSS warn of the risks that buying and consuming them without medical supervision can bring to your health.
Buying medicines through Amazon or Mercado Libre works in the same way as buying a bag or a pair of shoes, as corroborated by the local newspaper La Verdad Noticias through an exercise.
In the search engine you type the name of the medicine you need, add it to the shopping cart, and enter your banking info, as well as your address so that the product arrives within a day or a week.
Distributors usually do not ask for a prescription, the same is true for the portals of pharmacies with known names. They rarely ask for a prescription. The drugs arrive at your door within 24 hours.
Prices usually vary depending on the product, but sites such as Amazon or Mercado Libre may have daily deals of between 15 and 50% off. Syrups, pills, antivirals for Covid-19, nose emulsions, eye drops and even weight loss products are just some of the options offered on these platforms.
The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), which has detected the sale of pirated or counterfeit medicines through the Internet that, instead of generating benefits, can cause damage to health, warns that among the risks of acquiring medicines through the Internet is the possibility of buying counterfeit or pirated medicines.
So far, there are no specifications within the General Health Law that regulate the sale of medicines through electronic means, since the sites and distributors do not have certifications or permits that indicate whether the medicines are endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
The Senate of the Republic launched an initiative to modify the General Health Law. Joel Padilla Peña, member of the PT parliamentary group, who led the initiative, mentioned that efforts must be redoubled against this crime. To achieve this, Internet distributors would have to obtain a certificate from the Ministry of Health to ensure that the offer of their medicines is safe.
The initiative also proposes nine years in prison or a fine of 20 to 50 thousand days of minimum wage for those who do not have such certificates on their websites or accounts. However, there is still no approval to reform the law and the sale of medicines over the internet continues with little regulation.
How to detect a counterfeit or pirated drug?
Interpol mentions that we must be very careful with the medicines we buy, because at first glance the color and the boxes are very similar between an original package and a pirate one, they may even contain the same bar code and the pills are usually identical in size and quantity. That is why it is recommended to carry out the six “Pes“.
Plaza: That the medicines you purchase online are distributed by a pharmacy or point of sale authorized by the Ministry of Health; if the seller’s profile does not convince, it is better not to make the purchase.
Prescription: This means avoiding self-medication and only buying medicines that have been prescribed by your family doctor. In case of making the purchase online, be aware that the site asks for a prescription or provides information about the pharmaceutical site.
Promises: Avoid miracle products, that is, substances that promise miraculous cures in a short time and without any risk.
Price: When the offer is very good, compare with prices elsewhere; if the difference is large and from unknown distributors, it is most likely a fake product.
Privacy: Since Internet purchases are usually made with bank cards, make sure that the site has a protected purchase filter, since Interpol assures that they have found links with the purchase of fake medicines and extortion.
Product: Check that the medicine boxes do not contain spelling mistakes. Also check the color of the printing of the letters (which may be different between pirated and original ones), that the products are not labeled, etc.
The Federal Commission for the Protection against Health Risks (Cofepris) has an online manual for the population to know how to check if the medicines they buy are approved:
Baltazar Zepeda mentioned that for online purchases it is more difficult to identify warning signs, but that certain filters can be used, such as searching for the name of the distributor and seeing if it is certified or dialing the telephone numbers of the suppliers. In this way, medicines that could cause damage and health risks can be ruled out.
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