Patients pay high price for ‘Facebook medicine’ in Vietnam


To many people, buying medicines from shops on Facebook is never a good idea, but others in Vietnam who believe in the ‘panacea’ offered on the social media platform have learnt the lesson the hard way.


It is common for Facebook users in Vietnam to see advertisements of rapid remedies to all kinds of disease, from diabetes, kidney failure, hemorrhoid, kidney stone, to skin conditions and even impotence.


Buyers of these so-called medications have ended up wasting a big amount of money only to develop more serious complications.


S., a resident of the northern province of Phu Tho, recalled spending nearly VND30 million (US$1,320) on medicines sold online in the hope of curing his kidney failure.


Although the advertisement claimed that their effects could be noticed after six months, S.’s condition remained the same after he had used the medications for two years.


“It really upsets me that they are still on sale on Facebook. The sellers even claimed to be experts to give advice to their customers,” S. complained.


According to Nguyen Huu Dung, head of the artificial kidney department at the Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital, several patients have suffered a more serious stage of their kidney conditions after buying non-prescription medicine on the Internet.


Earlier this year, the infirmary recorded a patient suffering from paralysis after consuming medicines with a high lead content.


Doctors at the General Hospital in the northern province of Tuyen Quang also treated a victim whose open wound was infected with myiasis after being self-treated with herbs sold online.


Dang Van Chinh, chief inspector of the Ministry of Health, stated the agency had disciplined a number of facilities which exaggerated the effects of their supplements in online advertisements.    


The effort did not seem to be effective as there are countless of such deceptive ads on social media, Chinh continued.


Lax management over the sale of medicine and dietary supplements can lead to dangerous consequences, the official asserted.


According to Doan Cao Son, head of the National Institute of Drug Quality Control, several types of online herbal medicine have been found containing substances often used in western medication.


The additional ingredients were to help enhance the effects of the products but are also harmful to certain patients due to side effects, Son elaborated.


He cited a type of herbal supplement that was said to improve men’s performance in bed.


Experts discovered that the product consists of some active ingredients used in Viagra, which can be dangerous for people with heart diseases.


It is recommended that people only buy medications with legitimate registration and quality control, Son said, advising against products without clear origin or sold on Facebook alongside exaggerating advertisements.


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