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Internet Pharmacy Sites Are Fraught with Danger

Cmdr John Burke
Published Online: Monday, October 1, 2007   [ Request Print ]

Illegal Internet pharmacies have been the topic of this column over the past few years. Although some experts disagree with me, I feel that the Internet continues to be a major source of illegal pharmaceuticals, both controlled and noncontrolled substances.

My friends at the Drug Enforcement Agency Office of Diversion Control recently issued a press release concerning these sites and the plans to ramp up prosecution of rogue doctors and pharmacists in the United States who participate in these criminal schemes. These doctors and pharmacists make incredible profits in a very short time.

Popular Drugs

A close friend of mine recently revealed that a friend of his has been buying a popular erectile dysfunction drug off the Internet for several years. I sat down with him and we accessed the site.We found that one can buy at least 2 different brands of the popular drug for only $3.95 per dose. I then called my favorite retail pharmacist, who happens to be my daughter-in-law, and found that the per-dose price of this erectile dysfunction drug was just over $12 per pill at her national chain pharmacy.

At first, my friend did not understand the problem. His friend had found a bargain, and everybody likes a bargain. Besides, the pill must be genuine, because his understanding was that it was providing the expected outcome. No harm, no foul, right?

I then began to navigate the site as if I were going to purchase this drug. At one point, I was asked 4 basic health questions. None of the answers could be verified at the other end, because I was not having a face-to-face visit with a physician. These questions also came only after I had filled out my personal information and entered my Visa or MasterCard information.

I then pointed out to my friend that, even though the pill was providing the desired effect and likely had some active ingredient, how would this Web site be able to provide this pill significantly under the manufacturer's cost? I told him that it was not from the well-known manufacturer but was very likely a counterfeit drug that had been produced in India.

He cringed at the fact that the drug was not manufactured under sterile and controlled circumstances, and that without analysis the content of the pill was totally unknown. A variety of substances have been found in counterfeit drugs. Many of these foreign substances are found in HIV/AIDS and cancer pharmaceuticals.

Controlled Substances

Controlled substances also have been made accessible on these Web sites for several years. Hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, and acetaminophen with codeine are available now on various Web sites. The sites offer no legitimate doctor-patient relationship, no guarantee of the ingredients, no guarantee that one will receive the drugs, and no guarantee that identity theft will not be a possible end result of Americans buying these drugs from criminals. Moreover, possession of these drugs and participating in purchasing illegal drugs from the Internet is illegal.

I asked my friend why his friend was buying these drugs off the Internet, when he had local physicians who cared for him at his healthy 70+ age. Price was the answer, of course, but his friend is a multimillionaire who could well afford the $12 legitimate pill.

My question is, what price will this multimillionaire ultimately pay for the unknown substance or substances he is putting into his body?

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