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Reasons that lead people to end up buying fake medicines online: a qualitative interview study

Almomani, H., Patel, N. ORCID: and Donyai, P. ORCID: (2023) Reasons that lead people to end up buying fake medicines online: a qualitative interview study. JMIR Formative Research, 7. e42887. ISSN 2561-326X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.2196/42887


Background: Many people in the UK are turning to the internet to obtain their medicines. This introduces a significant public health risk and patient safety concerns as the Internet is a potential source of fake medicines. Objective: This qualitative study aimed to identify the reasons why people in the UK purchase medicines from the internet, which in turn could lead them to buy fake medicines inadvertently. The focus was on prescription only medicines (POMs) and those medicines that have the potential to be misused or that require a higher level of medical oversight during the purchase. This study also explored UK consumers’ perception of the risks posed by fake medicines available online. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults based in the UK who had previously purchased medicines online. The recruitment was continued until no new themes were identified (data saturation was reached). The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) was employed to interpret their views, and interview transcripts analysed using thematic analysis. The University’s research ethics committee approval was obtained. Results: Twenty interviews were conducted. Participants had bought various types of POMs or medicines with potential to be misused or that required a higher level of medical oversight (e.g., HRT, antibiotics, and high-risk controlled medicines). Participants demonstrated awareness of the presence of fake medicines on the internet, and they understood risks associated with them. The factors that influence consumers decision to buy medicines online were identified and grouped into themes including advantages and disadvantages of purchasing medicines in this way, the social influencing factors, the barriers and facilitators of the purchase as well as factors that lead consumers to trust the online sellers of medicines. Conclusions: This study provides deep insight into the breadth of reasons that drive consumers to buy medicines online. Identifying these reasons could enable the development of effective public awareness campaigns that warn consumers about the risks of buying fake medicines from online source. The findings could also help researchers to design interventions to prevent people from buying POMs online in general, thus preventing the purchasing of fake medicines.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:108945
Publisher:JMIR Publications


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