Ran into an article this morning from BBC news. It tells the story of a 64-year old woman who self-diagnosed herself with chronic fatigue syndrome (I feel like I've been having those symptoms this week).
She went to the internet and purchased a medication -- without a prescription -- and is now losing her eyesight because of cateracts and glaucoma (side effects of this prescription med without physician oversight).
Writing in the Lancet, the researchers said: "The expansion of the internet is relentless and, from the perspective of patients seeking information, in the main positive.I think all that is good stuff except for the last paragraph. I am definitely aware of the issue. However, it's going to be next to impossible for me to "police" this as they are asking.
"However, the online availability of controlled and uncontrolled drug therapies needs to be carefully monitored."
Mr Fraser added: "If you look online it is extremely easy to get hold of anything you like. Obviously, you do not need a prescription.
"If you are going to access medicines on the internet you are gambling with your own health."
He said doctors needed to be more aware of the issue and to make sure that they asked patients whether they were taking any medicines purchased over the counter or online.
People can tell me if I'm wrong, but, if my patient doesn't think that I'm adequately treating a certain condition, I think my patient would be reluctant to tell me if she/he purchased a medication on the internet -- just out of embarrassment. This doesn't only apply to prescription med purchases on the internet, but also herbal and alternative treatments.
I think I have set up an environment where I think my patient would be able to open up and tell me about this, but putting the burden on docs to police this information is not fair. Communication is a two-way street and is essential for ideal medical care.