Online Pharmacies Illegally Distributing Antibiotics in the UK

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dispense / dɪˈspɛns / (v) – to distribute

    The government dispensed food and water to victims of the disaster.

  2. mandatory / ˈmæn dəˌtɔr I / (adj) – required by authority

    All employees in the company have mandatory physical examinations once a year.

  3. dosage / ˈdoʊ sɪdʒ / (n) – the amount of medicine that needs to be used

    He became more ill because he used the wrong dosage of the medicine.

  4. revert / rɪˈvɜrt / (v) – to return to a previous state

    The company had to revert to how it was before its current president took over.

  5. prescription / prɪˈskrɪp ʃən / (n) – instructions given by a doctor on what medicine to take, how much, and how often

    The doctor gave him a prescription for his infection


Read the text below.

Some online pharmacies are illegally dispensing antibiotics to customers in the United Kingdom.

To be able to sell medicine to the country, online pharmacies are required to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  The pharmacies must also display a mandatory logo from the European Union. However, the Imperial College London found through a study that nearly half of online pharmacies sell medicine illegally, with eight out of ten stores letting customers decide their own dosages.

Of the online pharmacies analyzed in the study, 75% were not legally registered, and only 30% required customers to complete a health questionnaire before selling them drugs. One of the study’s authors expressed concern over the findings. She pointed out the risk of disease-causing microbes to develop resistance to drugs and become “superbugs.”

Excessive use of antibiotics can make bacteria develop resistance against drugs. The resulting superbugs become untreatable, making even a minor infection life-threatening. The World Health Organization has acknowledged the threat of superbugs to global public health. Experts also warned that if drug-resistant bacteria continue to increase, medical science could revert to the dark ages and millions of people could die from diseases.

The researchers strongly advised creating a taskforce to stop illegal online stores from selling medicines that require prescriptions. However, despite the MHRA’s efforts to shut down 4,760 websites selling prescription medicines without a license last year, the agency admitted that closing down all unregistered online pharmacies would be a very great challenge at this time.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Why do you think some online pharmacies avoid registration?
• How can the government compel online pharmacies to register?

Discussion B

• Why do think some medicines require prescriptions?
• What are possible effects that would arise if prescription medicines are not regulated?