WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN ABOUT THIS SUBJECT
center dot Increasing numbers of people are accessing medicines from the internet.
center dot This online market is poorly regulated and represents a potential threat to the health of patients and members of the public.
WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS
center dot Prescription-only analgesics, including controlled opioids, are readily available to the UK public through internet pharmacies that are easily identified by popular search engines.
center dot The majority of websites do not require the customer to possess a valid prescription for the drug.
center dot Less than half provide an online health screen to assess suitability for supply.
center dot The majority have no registered geographical location.
center dot Analgesic medicines are usually purchased at prices significantly above British National Formulary prices and are often supplied in large quantities.
center dot These findings are of particular relevance to pain-management specialists who are trying to improve the rational use of analgesic drugs.
To explore the availability to the UK population of prescription-only analgesics from the internet.
Websites were identified by using several keywords in the most popular internet search engines. From 2000 websites, details of 96 were entered into a database.
Forty-six (48%) websites sold prescription analgesics, including seven opioids, two non-opioids and 18 nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Thirty-five (76%) of these did not require the customer to possess a valid prescription.
Prescription-only analgesics, including controlled opioids, are readily available from internet websites, often without a valid prescription.