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Date Posted: 10:35:59 10/26/03 Sun
Author: Scammer
Subject: Local pharmacists say online drug vendors are unsafe, illegal
In reply to: Billy 's message, "Drug consumers warned of internet rogues" on 21:52:03 10/24/03 Fri

Local pharmacists say online drug vendors are unsafe, illegal
By Bridget Botelho bbotelho@sentinelandenterprise.com

The emergence of online pharmacies can be hazardous to your health, according to HealthAlliance Hospital Pharmacy Director Paul Concemi.

"Online pharmacies are appealing to cost only. It has nothing to do with quality or safety. All safeguards are being short-circuited by this," Concemi said. "I am against online pharmacies down to my core. It goes against everything we do as pharmacists."

Federal officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency released a statement Tuesday opposing online pharmacies that sell controlled substances to consumers without a prescription.

In Massachusetts, controlled substances are drugs obtained only with a valid prescription.

"The issue of consumers purchasing controlled substances over the Internet has serious legal and public health implications," said Betsy Willis, Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

"People are self-medicating ... without the safeguards of a diagnosis and monitoring by a trained and licensed physician."

Concemi agreed.

It is unsafe and unethical to prescribe medications without knowing the patients medical history, he said.

"To some doctor sitting in a backroom writing prescriptions who has never seen me, all I am is a piece of paper," Concemi said. "These companies don't play by the same rules as a regular pharmacy."

Drugs are controlled to protect consumers, according to the DEA.

"Just as we don't allow consumers to walk into a pharmacy and purchase controlled substances, we don't allow people to purchase them over the Internet," Willis said.

There are dozens of legal online prescription drug vendors that require prescriptions from authorized physicians before they distribute drugs.

Other Web sites, like Prescription Drugs Online, allow the purchase of prescription drugs over the Internet without a prior prescription, which is illegal according to DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite.

On Prescription Drugs Online, all people need to do is have a physical exam -- unless they've had one recently and consider themselves healthy, in which case a physical is not necessary, the Web site states.

To place an order, a person sets up an account and answers a "simple online questionnaire" to provide information about his or her medical condition.

Once the questionnaire is submitted, a licensed physician reviews the information and either approves or denies the medication request, according to the Web site instructions.

Information on usage, dosage and precautionary information is sent along with the medication to the person's mailing address.

Obtaining controlled substances over the Internet without a doctor's supervision is dangerous and illegal, according to the DEA.

"A prescription for a controlled substance is valid only if it is written by a DEA-approved physician with a prior doctor-patient relationship based on medical history, physical exams and a diagnosis," Willis said. "A prescription based solely on an online questionnaire is invalid and illegal."

A physician who writes a prescription based on a questionnaire or "two-minute phone conversation" is violating the law, and so is the pharmacist who knowingly fills the prescription, Willis said.

Among medications obtainable through online pharmacies like MedPharmacy.com are prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants, weight loss and sexual health medications, dubbed "embarrassment drugs" by the company.

Many online drug vendors use embarrassment as a good reason to buy medications online instead of face-to-face from a doctor.

The advertisements for these sites boast advantages of ordering online with "no appointments, no waiting rooms, no embarrassment, and low prices."

The DEA is actively working to find and shut down invalid online pharmacies.

"It's hard for the DEA to find these distributors because they can change their (Internet) addresses constantly and always be two steps ahead of the DEA," Concemi said.

There are people in the DEA working on the Internet pharmacy issue. So far it has been a difficult task, according to Waite.

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  • Stop Internet pharmacy -- Peter Mesen, 08:02:13 11/01/03 Sat
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