Online shopping continues to grow in popularity every year, whether it’s groceries from the local supermarket, or shoes and make-up from the other side of the world. For the most part, the benefits of shopping without even having to open the front door are many – as well the convenience, products are often significantly cheaper. But when it comes to buying complementary and over-the-counter medicines online you could very well be jeopardising your health.
Australia has some of the strictest regulations in the world for complementary medicines. However, consumers need to be aware that products purchased overseas are not subject to the same regulations as those enforced in Australia.
“It is therefore important to ensure online or telephone purchases of complementary medicines are made only on the recommendation of a qualified healthcare professional or from a reputable retailer,” says Dr Wendy Morrow, Executive Director of the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) works with the complementary healthcare industry to regulate complementary medicine products on the market in Australia. Products can only be sold legally here if they meet Australian standards of quality, safety and efficacy and are included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
Without taking measures to ensure a product or website is legitimate, the TGA warns consumers could face a number of risks, including using medicines that are fake, contaminated, too strong or too weak, or contain undisclosed or dangerous ingredients.
Risks of buying overseas products online
- The products may contain substances that are illegal in Australia.
- If not processed properly, some herbs retain toxic compounds that may cause unwanted side effects.
- The products may be contaminated.
- The products could include dangerous ingredients.
- The website may offer misleading or inaccurate health and safety information, including dose recommendations.
- The products may be out-of-date or fake.
- You are not protected under Australian consumer laws if you buy a complementary medicine from overseas.