Internet shopping has made our lives so much easier, allowing us to order almost anything we need and have it delivered directly to our door. Unsurprisingly, this has extended into healthcare and there are now various sites which allow you to buy health products online. When used correctly, these services can save patients time, money and effort. However, it can be dangerous to obtain certain medicines online, and there are a few health products which you should avoid purchasing through websites.

Weight Loss Supplements

Buying weight loss supplements online, from an unlicensed website, is a big no. There is no way to tell if the medication has been government approved and more often than not, it won’t have been. This means that any claims the pills make are unregulated so they are unlikely to actually help you lose weight.

More worryingly, there’s evidence to suggest that a lot of unlicensed weight loss medications are actually more similar to stimulants, often containing harmful levels of caffeine which could be fatal if taken by someone with heart problems. Even if the pills are marketed as herbal or natural online, they could potentially contain caffeine or other harmful ingredients, so it’s best to avoid purchasing any kind of weight loss pills online, and instead consult your doctor.

Prescription Medications from Unlicensed Sites

There are legitimate, approved sites which partner with General Medical Council registered doctors to provide their customers with easier, sometimes cheaper, access to prescription medications. However, if you cannot verify that a site is regulated and working with a GMC doctor, and if they don’t ask you for a prescription before purchase, you should avoid buying any kind of medication from them.

 

Unlicensed sites could sell you drugs which are inappropriate for your specific condition or medical history; it’s a doctor’s job to help you find the best option for your circumstances, and without their help you could find yourself taking medicine which will do your more harm than good.

 

Even if you know exactly what you need to take (if you have a long term prescription, for example) it’s best to steer clear of these sites as they could easily provide you with medication that doesn’t match the strength it claims to be or is counterfeit, even if the packaging looks legitimate. Counterfeit drugs can be extremely dangerous as they could include harmful chemicals, too much or too little of the active ingredient, or be the complete wrong medication.

Breast Milk

There is a large, unregulated online market for breast milk which should be avoided at all costs. For one thing, it is far too tempting and easy for these sellers to improve their profit margins by topping up the milk with cow’s milk; a study that tested samples of breast milk bought online found that 10% contained cow’s milk, which could cause allergic reactions.

On top of this is the risk that the donor hasn’t been screened and so may be a carrier for diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, or that the milk has been contaminated by alcohol consumption, illegal drugs or bacteria picked up during shipping. Doctors recommend staying away from any breast milk offered online, citing formula as a far more healthy choice for a growing infant.

Medical Devices

It’s easy to purchase medical devices such as hearing aids or sleep apnea machines on the internet, and it can often be cheaper too. The downsides mean it is definitely not worth it, though. Most medical devices must be custom fitted to the wearer, and so buying without going through this process may mean your product doesn’t work as well as it should.

This is particularly important in the case of sleep apnea machines, as there are various different models, mask types and settings which can be used, and purchasing one online will mean you risk ending up with the wrong one for your circumstances. Plus, you won’t have had the benefit of your doctor’s instructions and so may use the machine incorrectly. When it comes to medical hardware or devices, it is always better to use traditional, government regulated routes of purchase to make sure you choose the best fit for you.

Hormones

Buying hormone treatments online can be very tempting, especially for women who are entering the menopause and may be embarrassed about their symptoms. It’s very easy to make a wrong move when purchasing these kinds of products without doctor recommendation, even if they claim to be natural. As with unregulated prescription medications, hormone tablets can contain varying levels of the active ingredients they claim to include, meaning you could take too much or too little.

 

It’s also likely that you will end up taking the wrong medication for your body and so risk harmful side effects. For example, some women buy testosterone supplements online and take too much of it, leading to unwanted changes like a deepening voice or excess hair growth. Soy is another commonly purchased supplement, but only around 30% of women can actually process it and use it to lessen symptoms of menopause. To avoid wasting money on supplements which won’t work or will cause you additional problems, don’t buy hormones online.