Commentary

Consumers Gamble on Drug Safety to Buy Cheap Online

Consumers Gamble on Drug Safety to Buy Cheap Online

comScore Networks released key findings from a study focused on the opinions, attitudes and observed behaviors of visitors to online pharmacies. The study revealed that despite safety concerns, a significant percentage of visitors to online pharmacies believe the sites provide an affordable and appealing alternative to traditional methods of buying prescription drugs.

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 A comScore analysis of traffic to more than 3,000 traditional and non-traditional online pharmacies, both in the U.S. and abroad, revealed that:

  • 17.4 million people visited these sites in Q4 2004, an increase of 14 percent from Q3 2004.
  •  63 percent (10.9 million) of these visitors visited non-traditional pharmacy sites, up 36 percent from the previous quarter
  • 62 percent of respondents feel some prescription drugs that have been proven effective should be available to the public despite possible secondary effects

Bridget O'Toole, senior vice president of comScore Networks, said "A majority of online pharmacy visitors reported concerns about the safety and legality of buying drugs online, but the perception that e-commerce offers lower costs and greater convenience is weighing heavily on consumer decisions,"  

Attitudes and Opinions Related to Online Pharmacies

 

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Very concerned about the safety of drugs available online

54%

16%

30%

Online pharmacies are providing healthy competition to regular pharmacies

66%

21%

12%

Some prescription drugs that have been proven effective should be available to the public despite secondary effects, under direct supervision of a healthcare professional

62%

18%

21%

 Source: comScore Networks, April 2005

While more than half of all respondents reported concerns about the safety of drugs available online, almost 40 percent said that they would buy drugs that are not FDA-approved, but that work well for them.

Attitudes and Opinions Related to the FDA

 

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

The FDA should regulate all drugs that are consumed in the U.S.

51%

20%

30%

If I could buy drugs online that are not FDA approved, but work for me, I would

38%

17%

45%

 Source: comScore Networks, April 2005

In addition:

  • 61 percent of the respondents did not inform their physicians of their last online prescription purchase.
  • 45 percent of visitors to online pharmacies reported that they visited in order to compare prices.  Among those consumers who reported purchasing drugs online, nearly two-thirds said that they did so to save money. 
  • Only one out of every three respondents using an online pharmacy was concerned about the lack of face-to-face communication with a pharmacist, despite safety concerns

 Ms. O'Toole concludes  "... it is essential for manufacturers, healthcare professionals and government to develop educational campaigns that address safety and other related issues in order to ensure consumer well-being."

You can find out more here.

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