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Pills peddlers, selling medicines with "no prior prescription required", are still thriving on the net, leaving thousands of patients at risk. They often use web sites without proper contact details; let you fill in flimsy online questionnaires to justify the prescriptions; hire spammers or hail products such as "Generic Viagra".

In case it escaped your attention: the original Viagra patent in the U.S. will not expire until 2012, so what you get is by definition a counterfeit product or worse: some Viagra pills are known to contain lactose as an ingredient. Others have up to 400 times the maximum recommended active ingredient, which may impress the ladies, but makes it a dangerous product. According to Pfizer about 350,000 web sites (!) sell fake Viagra or send you to a site that does.

And that's just Viagra...

A Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter recently purchased several prescription medications online. This is what he got: bogus prescriptions written by a 'doctor' in Georgia, a state that prohibits prescribing drugs "solely by electronic means." (The doctor in question had no idea how his name wound up on a bottle of Didrex.) Medications without any dosage information, and without advisories about side effects or possible interactions with other drugs. Shipments in crude packaging with no documentation and no receipt, from companies that pretend to be in Canada or the US, but in reality serve as a middleman for medications shipped from Asia, where just about anything can be concocted.

More importantly, the reporter's credit card number was used (without his knowledge) to pay off somebody's traffic tickets in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Understaffed pharmacy boards say they barely have enough the resources to inspect traditional pharmacies, let alone online rogue pharmacies, but experts agree that something should be done: At least 14 deaths and overdoses have been directly linked to drugs obtained over the Internet. ®

Related stories

Pfizer sues online pharmacies
E-pharmacies guilty of blatant disregard for health
e-Pharmacy sites offer risky prescription

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