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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Online pharmacy warning
Viagra is a popular online drug
Hundreds of prescription drugs are available to buy illegally over the internet, according to a report by monitoring company Envisional.

The firm says so-called 'Online pharmacies' are exposing consumers to huge risks and are creating problems for pharmaceutical companies whose products are being sold on unregulated sites.

Top ten web drugs
Viagra (erectile dysfunction)
Xenical (weight loss)
Phentermine (weight loss)
Meridia (weight loss)
Bontril (weight loss)
Propecia (hair loss)
Prozac (antidepressant)
Celebrex (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
Ionamin (weight loss)
Adipex (weight loss)
The drugs are being sold to consumers in the UK and around the world without any attention being paid to local regulations.

Many sites will deliver drugs direct to consumers, without prescription.

Envisional says all types of prescription drugs are being sold but most popular are drugs for sexual dysfunction like Viagra, for hair and weight loss, pregnancy prevention, depression and sleeping disorders.

The research showed it was also easy to obtain performance-enhancing drugs used by bodybuilders and athletes, including banned substances like EPO.

Huge market

It is estimated that the market for online prescription drugs will be US$4.4bn.

The report says consumers are not properly aware of the dangers and often advertisements on the site say the drugs are safe.

The pharmacy and prescription system exists for a reason

Brian Earle
Viagra, for instance, should not be given to men who are taking certain types of heart medication.

The problem is unquantifiable - because there are hundreds of sites and this is growing every day.

Envisional is calling for international legislation to tackle the problem.

Chief executive Brian Earle, chief executive of Envisional, said that most online pharmacies selling drugs without prescription only did so to overseas customers - thus avoiding jurisdiction in their own country.

He said: "The pharmacy and prescription system exists for a reason - to protect consumers from harmful side-effects that they are not trained to understand.

"If a doctor tells a patient that he cannot be prescribed Viagra because of a weak heart or other medical condition, that patient can easily obtain the drug over the internet.

"There was a proposal that the US Government impose fines on websites that operate in this way but further investigation is certainly needed.

"In the UK, advertising prescription drugs direct to consumers is illegal but, owing to the international nature of the Internet, bodies like the government's Medical Control Agency (MCA) are often powerless to step in."

Mr Earle stressed that there were perfectly good pharmacies selling online who insisted on a prescription before selling drugs.

See also:

05 Jun 00 | Health
Web prescriptions alert
08 Mar 02 | Health
Warning over health websites
19 Mar 02 | Business
Swoop on bogus health web sites
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