Antibiotics advertised on social media are being sold at the wrong dose to people too embarrassed to visit a sexual health clinic. A BBC reporter was sold unlicensed drugs to treat sexually transmitted infections by a man who said he got them from his uncle’s pharmacy. The man, who fled when confronted, said he had several celebrity clients. Government medicine regulator Alastair Jeffrey said taking the pills was “not a gamble I’d be willing to take”.
The rogue salesman told the BBC he had received the drugs from his relative’s pharmacy based overseas. Mr Jeffrey said there was a great deal of concern around selling “an unlicensed medicine; you’ve no idea where it’s come from”.
“You don’t know how it’s been manufactured; you don’t know where it’s been stored or transported; it may have been sitting in some cargo container in 40 degree heat that could have an impact on the active pharmaceutical ingredient.” A BBC Inside Out West Midlands reporter paid £15 for antibiotics to be posted to him after replying to one online advert, claiming to have contracted chlamydia. He also received a text message with instructions on how to take them: four white azithromycin tablets first followed by one green doxycycline tablet, twice a day for 10 days.
Our reporter then asked to meet the salesman, called Anthony, claiming he had syphilis. In a cafe near Clapham Junction, Anthony handed over more tablets for £25, telling the undercover reporter to have “lots of water, no alcohol whatsoever and do not participate in any sexual activity”. During a second meeting, where the reporter took along a colleague claiming to have genital herpes, the salesman handed over what he said was a 10-day treatment consisting of anti-viral drugs.
When asked about the medicines dispensed Dr Suneeta Soni, of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, said the dosages were wrong, and some of the treatments were no longer used to treat the conditions because antibiotic resistance had made them ineffective.