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Online quacks can kill you, Health Which? warns.

Researchers for the magazine posing as patients surveyed 15 medical Web sites, and were disappointed to find some dishing out Viagra or other drugs like sweets or without proper checks.

One researcher was sold the impotency drug by directresponsemarketing.co.uk after claiming to be a 45-year-old man on medication for a heart condition. This "patient" should have been refused Viagra because combining it with the medication could prove fatal in extreme cases.

Another Which? sleuth could obtain the slimming drug Xenical from all five sites he visited. Apparently no cyber doc was bothered about sussing out the patient's diet history first.

As for online consultations, most doctors seemed to give the right advice, but liked their medical jargon too much for the tastes of Which?, the publishing arm of the Consumers' Association

The magazine also expressed worries over the prescription of drugs which were unlicensed for use in the UK - something the cyberdocs.com site was guilty of. This site also sold a hypertension drug to a researcher complaining of high blood pressure without taking the time to diagnose hypertension properly.

Some of the services offered were expensive - one US outfit charged 170 for ten Viagra pills, consultation and shipping.

Other sites failed name doctors or show their professional qualifications. And there were also concerns about patient confidentiality.

"The Internet can be an important tool for health information, but our research shows that at the moment visiting your GP is the best way to get a diagnosis and treatment," said Charlotte Gann, Health Which?'s editor, who has obviously never heard of Harold Shipman.

Which? advised anyone thinking of using an online doctor to use a UK site, which should be governed by UK law, and to check the site's credential's first. ®

Sites visited for the study included:

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