Lethal prescriptions drugs can be bought online in just five minutes, health watchdogs have warned.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it was ‘hugely concerned’ by how easy it is for people to access medication on websites they assume are British and regulated.
While regulators can control so-called medical websites in England, they can do nothing about sites overseas, CQC chairman Peter Wyman admitted.
This is causing many to buy high doses of drugs, such as painkillers, assuming the websites are safe, putting them at risk of bleeding, kidney damage and even addiction.
Deadly drugs can be bought online in just minutes, health watchdogs have warned (stock)
Mr Wyman is urging the public to be ‘very cautious’ over sites that are not regulated by UK watchdogs.
‘You can go online, you can very quickly find something that looks like a British medical practice, with possibly GMC (General Medical Council) registered doctors, that to the ordinary person looks perfectly reputable,’ he said.
‘But it’s operating outside this country and not just outside our legal jurisdiction but also our practical jurisdiction and that’s a real challenge.’
Mr Wyman added a website can appear to be British based but actually operates many miles away overseas, which regulators cannot control.
CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 11 NEED MEDICAL TREATMENT AFTER TAKING XANAX THEY BOUGHT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Children as young as 11 are being treated for abusing the anxiety drug Xanax, it was revealed in May this year.
Recreational use of the medication is soaring among young people in Britain following its glamorisation in American rap music.
Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, is not available on the NHS but can be obtained on private prescription.
However, the drug and associated fake versions are increasingly finding their way on to social media and the ‘dark web’.
One ambulance trust last year attended 240 call-outs for Xanax abuse relating to children and teenagers aged between 11 and 18, an analysis by the BBC found.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the North East Ambulance Service said two of the cases involved 11-year-olds.
It also recorded incidents relating to Xanax abuse involving children aged 11 in 2014 and 2016.
Leading drugs charity Addaction said it was aware of children of 13 ‘dealing’ the strong medication, which is in the benzodiazepine group of drugs, in schools.
The public should therefore check any site is CQC-registered before using its medical services, Mr Wyman told the Health and Social Care Committee.
‘Anybody within five minutes could get any lethal combination of drugs they want and they will be delivered the next day at home, all you need is a credit card, and that is hugely concerning’, he said.
Aside from urging the public to be cautious, Mr Wyman said there is little else health regulators can do.
‘In my mind I can’t see any other practical way of dealing with it because you can never regulate what happens on the internet in another country,’ he said.
Last March, the CQC issued a report into the dangers of online pharmacies after inspecting 11 providers.
It singled out two which were putting the public at risk, Asset Chemist and Treated.Com.
Others were found to be issuing potentially dangerous medications to patients who were underage or at risk or severe reactions with other drugs.
This comes after research released earlier this year suggested thousands of British teenagers are being left ‘zombified’ after buying the illegal tranquiliser Xanax online.
Xanax is banned on the NHS but can easily be bought online from the US, where it is legal, creating a black market.
While also speaking to the Committee, the CQC called for ‘long term and sustainable’ funding into social care, particularly for the elderly.
CQC’s chief executive Ian Trenholm said it is becoming increasingly difficult for patients to access care at home, which leads to them spending more time in hospital than they need to.
This comes just a day after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced a £650million injection into social care in the Budget.