Online pharmacies criticised over ‘aggressive’ opiate marketing tactics

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UK online pharmacies have been accused of using inappropriate marketing tactics to sell powerful opiates.

An investigation by the Guardian has found that at least two major online pharmacies have been sending aggressive marketing emails encouraging customers to stock up on codeine, despite the spread of the international opioid epidemic.

The Guardian found that the vendors have sent emails telling customers that stocks are running low, or that customers’ “limits” on purchases of the drug have been lifted. Both of the vendors mentioned in the papers’ investigation are registered with the UK pharmacy regulator.

The Guardian claims it was able to buy 200 codeine tablets in just two weeks, spreading orders across two pharmacies using a pseudonym and two different payment cards.

Online pharmacies are forced to impose limits on the amount of drugs individual customers can order within specific time frames.

But one vendor wrote to at least one customer: “What are you waiting for?...This item is going fast so grab them while you can.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni told the Guardian: “That is, for me, something that should be firmly investigated by the regulators. That is appalling, that really is.

“To turn around and say ‘the restriction on that product has now been lifted; if you want to buy some more please go and do so.’ That is something you would never expect a reputable pharmacy to do.”

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