Real Danger – what’s the campaign about?
Spam or unsolicited mail is a common way fraudsters target members of the public with black market medicines. Nearly 25%, that is 15 billion messages of all spam emails advertise medicines.
It is a lucrative and sophisticated industry with spammers now engaged in “next generation” ways to deceive the public , using popular social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
Spam is a cheap, easy way to reach millions of people. Even if only a small percentage of us click on to spam the criminals are in profit – latest estimates put the value of the industry at $75 billion.
Illicit treatments sold through spam can be made up of ingredients that haven’t been approved, which means their safety profile hasn’t been tested and side effects are yet to be established. Many of these products are sold without the purchaser receiving a diagnosis from a doctor and contain no health advice, guidance or Patient Information Leaflets (PIL). Not only is this illegal, but it means the user has no medical information on the ingredients, dosage instructions or potential side effects. The products often arrive poorly packaged which flaunts legal requirements and increases the risk of contamination – especially if the medicines are made up of fake or dangerous ingredients.
To highlight all these risks, Pfizer has worked with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Patients Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), HEART UK and Men’s Health Forum to launch this campaign.
The campaign details an investigation which looks at the impact on those being targeted by medicine-related spam... and their reaction to the results. Age, location, gender or medical history, it doesn't matter – spammers don't discriminate. Once an email inbox has been targeted, it could simply be a matter of time before the ease of purchasing online lures the recipient to buy a prescription only medicine from unregulated online sources - a decision which could be seriously damaging to the health and the pocket.
Facebook and Twitter campaign pages have been set up to provide people with useful information and guidance on how to avoid spam emails and what to do with them. These pages will also act as a destination for people to advise others of suspicious online sites and to continue to raise awareness of the issue among the social media community.
Find out more about the campaign, and get advice on the risks of purchasing medicines online, by going to www.realdanger.co.uk.
Read the full campaign report
Help and advice
To report a counterfeit medicine or device contact the MHRA’s dedicated 24-hour hotline on 020 3080 6701, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Counterfeits, The Intelligence Unit, MHRA, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, London, SW1W 9SZ.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has a list of regulated pharmacies that are GPhC registered, so people can be sure they are purchasing safe and genuine medicines online.