Fake STI tests risking false negative results found in UK

The UK medicines regulator has warned that thousands of counterfeit diagnostics kits for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) have been seized in the past four years.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says the kits may deliver false negative results, putting people at risk of unknowingly transmitting serious infections to sexual partners.

“Fake test kits could potentially give false negatives and lead to an increase in diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea as well as HIV,” said the agency in an alert.

Almost 10,000 falsified STI and HIV testing kits have been seized since 2015, many of which were being sold on online marketplaces.

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The MHRA has also published research showing just how readily people will buy risky products over the Internet, despite the risks of inadvertently buying a fake.

It says 25 per cent of young people surveyed admitted to buying medical products online in the past 12 months, while almost 1 in 10 (9 per cent) said they had purchased products they knew, or strongly suspected, to be falsified.

Meanwhile, more than 6 in 10 of those surveyed (63 per cent) bought STI test kits after reading articles about home testing kits on a website, forum or blog and almost two thirds (64 per cent) wanted to avoid the embarrassment of buying the kits in a shop or pharmacy.

“While MHRA works with companies to remove these types of products from sale, the next stage of the #FakeMeds campaign intends to educate people buying STI & HIV test kits online,” said the regulator.

“Know what you’re buying by purchasing self-test kits and other medical devices from a safe and legitimate provider,” advises MHRA’s devices group manager Graeme Tunbridge.

“Look for the distance selling logo which means that the supplier is registered with the MHRA to sell medicines to the public and has been accredited as a legitimate source. Make sure that the test is easy to use and has clear instructions.”

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