International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 78–87 | Cite as

Availability and quality of illegitimate somatropin products obtained from the Internet

  • Róbert György VidaEmail author
  • András Fittler
  • Ivett Mikulka
  • Eszter Ábrahám
  • Viktor Sándor
  • Ferenc Kilár
  • Lajos Botz
Research Article


Background Growth hormones are widely available on the Internet for those who want to enhance their physical performance and improve body satisfaction. Illegitimate websites market somatropin injections without medical prescription and encourage misuse. Customers potentially put their health at risk when purchasing parenteral medications online. Objective The objective of our study was to evaluate the online market of no-prescription somatropin products and to analyse and document Internet pharmacy characteristics, distribution and pharmaceutical quality. Setting Websites indexed in Google promoting somatropin for sale direct to patients. Method Websites promoting the sale of growth hormone products were identified and analysed from June to August 2014. Internet vendor sites were evaluated to identify possible patient and medication safety concerns. Website characteristics, delivery time, storage conditions, packaging and attached product information were assessed. Investigation of the somatropin content was achieved using capillary electrophoresis with UV detection and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Main outcome measure Accessibility and quality of somatropin injections. Results Seventeen individual Internet vendor websites distributed somatropin products directly to patients, majority (94%) did not require a valid medical prescription before dispensing the products. Majority (70%) of Internet pharmacies displayed no medical information and none (0%) of the vendors displayed any regulatory body logo. All online samples had significantly (p < 0.001) lower somatropin concentration than labelled. Conclusion Our results clearly illustrate that prescription only biologic drugs are widely available online and can be easily accessed by anyone. Unprofessional distribution and handling is likely to cause degradation and possible patient safety concerns.


Growth hormone Illegal medicines Internet pharmacy Medication safety Online medicines Somatropin 



The present scientific contribution is dedicated to the 650th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Pécs, Hungary.


This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11096_2016_398_MOESM1_ESM.docx (305 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 304 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmaceutics and Central Clinical Pharmacy, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of PécsPecsHungary
  2. 2.Institute of Bioanalysis and Szentágothai Research Centre, Medical SchoolUniversity of PécsPecsHungary

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