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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Web prescriptions alert
Internet consultations have come under the microscope
A patient with a heart condition was given the anti-impotence drug Viagra after an internet consultation - even though it could have been fatal.

The case was uncovered by Health Which? magazine which conducted research into health websites offering online consultations and medicines.

Researchers say their work shows it can be potentially dangerous to seek prescriptions over the web.

These sites may appear to be easier than going to the GP, but there may be dangers

Charlotte Gann, Health Which?
Five web sites tested by the magazine supplied a slimming drug to a man for whom it was inappropriate, and none tried to get adequate details of his diet history.

Researchers from the magazine posed as patients and tested 15 sites to obtain prescription drugs or have an online consultation.

A panel of two GPs and a pharmacist then assessed the responses.

Heart condition

One researcher obtained Viagra from after posing as a 45-year-old man suffering from impotence who was also on medication to treat a heart condition.

Because of the other medication he was taking he should have been refused the anti-impotence drug.

Viagra has been linked to the deaths of heart patients, and should not be prescribed to anyone already taking nitroglycerin or other nitrate drugs for heart disease.

Another researcher was supplied with the slimming drug Xenical by five sites he visited when he should never have been prescribed it.

Another site called prescribed a brand of hypertension drug that is not licensed for use in the UK.

The magazine criticised sites for not naming doctors or showing their qualifications, and foreign sites which may prescribe drugs not tested or licensed in the UK.

We do have very high standards

Tom O'Brien, Direct Response Marketing
Charlotte Gann, editor of Health Which? said: "These sites may appear to be easier than going to the GP, but there may be dangers.

"Drugs were supplied inappropriately by some sites we visited, and could have been dangerous if taken in the circumstances explained by our researchers."

Tom O'Brien, managing director of, said the company used qualified GPs who assessed questionnaires completed online by customers and then prescribed drugs.

He said: "We would like to see the name of the person who ordered the Viagra so we could check our records.

"Obviously if this happened we would be very concerned but we do have very high standards and at the moment we are being accused without the right of reply."

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