18 November 2004


Avoid illegitimate internet pharmacies which offer medicines without the need for a doctor's prescription.

Kristina Lunner, director of federal government affairs for the American Pharmacists Association, says prospective online buyers should be able to discern a legitimate online pharmacy from one that is not.

According to Lunner, there are some sites which will fill any order, no questions asked, no prescription required. She says this practice is simply illegal in the US, so such sites are likely to be foreign.

Legitimate online pharmacies act much like your regular pharmacy. This means you can only buy prescription medicines when you have a prescription from a doctor. However, there are some which have "online prescription sites or services," --- meaning they will ask you to fill up a questionnaire, which their "online physician" will allegedly review and for a consultation fee, will either give you a prescription or not.

Critics of online prescription has this to say:

While the practice is marginally legal, there is wide opposition to online prescribing within the medical community. In 1999, the American Medical Association took the stance that online prescribing "falls well below a minimum standard of medical care."

The FDA agrees with the AMA, and the Federation of State Medical Boards in 2000 came to the conclusion that prescribing drugs solely on the basis of an online questionnaire amounts to "unprofessional conduct."

The argument against Internet prescribing boils down to this: Online questionnaires or phone consultations are inferior to a physical exam and face-to-face interview. You can easily lie or forget relevant information, and your actual physical condition isn't apparent to the doctor writing the prescription.

"Do you have high blood pressure?" a form may ask. Maybe last time you saw a doctor you didn't, but the remote doctor reviewing your form cannot put a cuff on your arm to find out.

"Online questionnaires do not address all of the potential dangers of taking medication," Lunner says.

Although a form may catch an obvious conflict between your medical history and a given drug, you are essentially prescribing it to yourself. You can't guarantee that you'll hear from a doctor or pharmacist if there may be a better choice for you or if you should try another treatment approach.

[WebMD, Nov 17 2004]

I agree. There is no such thing as long distance healing. Nothing replaces a real clinic consultation. Mere questionnaire answering cannot replace the tried and tested physical examination done by qualified physicians.

Summing up, here are tips you should consider before buying online presciption medicines:

  • Do not buy from sites that don't require a valid prescription.

  • Be certain that you're comfortable with the site's privacy policy, and don't submit any personal information unless you are.

  • Make sure the site has a licensed pharmacist you can contact to ask questions.

  • Don't buy from foreign online pharmacies.

  • Ask your doctor before you use any medicines for the first time.

[WebMD, Nov 17 2004]

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