Aims The rationale for this study was to explore public’ 1) willingness to consider the possibility of defective medicines; 2) awareness of the Yellow Card Scheme (YCS) to report any safety issues regarding medicines; and 3) views on purchasing medicines from online pharmacies and their awareness about the official logo of registered online pharmacies in the UK as the only mean to identify legitimate online pharmacies in the UK.
Methods This was a questionnaire study containing case scenarios derived from actual reported incidents of defective medicines from the MHRA. The questionnaire was piloted with 14 members of the public. All adults attending the outpatient department of the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital, with or without a child, were considered as potential participants.
Results 400 questionnaires were completed and returned (response rate 90%). Only a few participants (8%) considered the possibility of manufacturer error in the first scenario when the defect was obscure (ibuprofen containing antipsychotic drugs due to packaging errors). The percentage increased to 37% in the second scenario when the defect was more obvious (an antihistamine with musty and mouldy odour). In both cases, most participants preferred to report complaints to healthcare professionals. Only 4% of the participants were aware of the YCS. More than one-third of the respondents (35%) felt that online pharmacies are convenient in terms of buying medicines and 41% of them said that they will consider buying medications from online pharmacies if they were sold at cheaper prices. However, only 9 (2%) respondents were aware of the official logo for legitimate and registered online pharmacies.
Conclusions The survey results showed that members of the public, in Derbyshire, were not aware about the possibility of defective medicines or that they can report via the YCS. Furthermore, despite the growing acceptance of using online pharmacies to obtain medicines, participants were unable to identify legitimate pharmacies and therefore are vulnerable to the risk of purchasing defective medicines. This study recommends more public campaigns to increase awareness of YCS and the official online pharmacy logo.
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