A new study has found that antibiotics are illegally available to UK citizens without prescription on 45 per cent of online pharmacy websites surveyed.
Researchers from Imperial College London analysed 20 pharmacies that were available for UK citizens to access online, and found that 9 of the online services did not require a prescription before purchase. 10 of the online pharmacies surveyed were unclear about the location they were operating from, and had no evidence of registration.
While acknowledging the small sample size of the study, the authors said that the research offers insight into the increasing use of the internet for a variety of purposes, including buying antibiotics.
“Our study paves the way for larger, more thorough research into this worrying new trend so that we can ensure patient safety and promote the responsible use of antibiotics in all areas of healthcare provision”, said Sara Boyd, a clinician research fellow at the National Institute for Health Research and principal author of the study.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer, expressed grave concern about the findings. “Clinicians across the country are making great progress in reducing inappropriate prescriptions and this cannot be undermined by reckless illegal online pharmacies” she told the Mail Online.Martin Astbury, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, called for online provision of antibiotics to be banned until the industry is properly regulated. ‘Unnecessary antibiotic use can result in serious side-effects in individuals and has a major impact on wider public health by increasing antibiotic resistance,’ he said.
Winston Churchill was once voted the “greatest Briton of all time” in a BBC poll, edging out Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who?), Lady Diana, Shakespeare and John Lennon. Now, in addition to his gifts as a statesman and politician, orator and historian (and artist), we have been reminded that he helped to popularise science as well.
As reported in Nature, an historian has discovered an 11-page manuscript which Churchill penned in 1939 but never published, speculating about life on other planets. It turns out that the great man was deeply interested in modern science and followed developments keenly. Gazing at the gathering storm, he wrote pessimistically:
“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”
But despite the reminder that Churchill was a fan of science, it’s also good to remember that he believed that there were moral limits to science. In one of his most famous speeches, he foresaw dark days for the world if Germany were to win the War:
If we can stand up to [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world ... will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
Science, so Churchill believed, was fascinating, but not good in itself. It had to be governed by morality, lest it become “perverted”. It’s not a bad reminder for us, three generations on, as we enter an era of genetic engineering.
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