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5:01 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

FDA: Consumers continue to buy risky drugs via the Internet

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to warn the American public about the dangers of buying medications over the Internet.

New data collected by the FDA show that consumers who are trying to save money on prescription drugs don't need to take chances by buying prescription drugs from foreign Internet sites, because low-cost generic versions are available in the United States.

This finding also may be an indication that some consumers are likely buying foreign drugs this way to avoid getting a prescription from their doctor or healthcare professional, since many Web sites do not require a prescription.

Safety Concerns

The use of prescription drugs without a prescription is an intrinsically unsafe practice. The FDA urges consumers to have a prescription from their doctor or other healthcare professional before using prescription drugs. The agency also urges consumers to review www.fda.gov for important information before making such purchases.

Consumers should be aware of safety concerns of drugs purchased from unregulated Internet sellers since some of these drugs might:

• Require careful dosing and monitoring

• Not have adequate labeling for safe use

• Be inappropriately packaged, therefore product integrity is uncertain

• Have been withdrawn from the U.S. market for safety or efficacy reasons

• May carry risks that require initial screening and/or periodic patient monitoring

• Cause harm, such as a controlled substance whose use should be supervised by a doctor or health care professional due to abuse potential

• Have clinically significant drug-drug interactions

Recent examinations of a sample of drugs shipped to U.S. consumers found several drugs are associated with higher risks and are more dangerous to the consumer if used without the supervision of a doctor or health care professional.

For example, warfarin (an anticoagulant or blood thinner) is a medication that requires very close monitoring to prevent stroke or death. Another example is amoxicillin and other antibiotics that should not be used for self-treatment to reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Consumers are also at risk if the drugs are not properly labeled for safe and effective use, and there are cost concerns as well. Many drugs are actually more expensive if purchased from Internet sellers.