CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH » ONLINE
Pros and cons of buying drugs online
Broadcast: April 11, 2000 | Producer:
Ines Colabrese; Research: Jenny Wells
Canada Customs agents check hundreds of
parcels a day
Canada Customs agents check hundreds of parcels
a day. They're looking
for guns, knives, hash and cocaine. They're also supposed to check
for prescription drugs. It's legal to import them but only
in small amounts.
But prescription drugs we ordered from websites
slipped by Canada Customs, drugs prescribed by doctors who had
never met their online patients and had more information about
their credit card than about their health.
It starts at an online search engine. Type
in the name of any prescription drug. The hottest trade is in
so called lifestyle drugs, drugs that grow hair or reduce your
waistline. We wanted to see which drugs we could buy without
ever seeing a doctor.
we were amazed by how easy it was. On offer: Propecia for hair loss,
drugs for anxiety, drugs for weight loss and lots and lots of Viagra.
We chose what we wanted. Then we filled out an online medical questionnaire
that asked for a name, age, and yes or no answers to these questions:
Do you have a heart condition? Do you have any drug allergies? As
easy as that.
Then we waived our legal rights;
gave them our credit card number and sent off the orders. Within
weeks, six prescription drugs arrived on our desk.
for dealing with online pharmacies »
Most were from the United States,
but one was from New Zealand. Propecia for hair loss arrived from
three separate online pharmacies. There was an order of Viagra,
a package of Celebrex for arthritic pain. And a three-month supply
of the weight loss drug Phentermine.
"It's a dangerous game they
play," says pharmacist Helena Decyk
All this without seeing a doctor.
And all drugs which could cause serious side effects.
I'm surprised that you got all those things just on the Net,"
says Helena Decyk, a pharmacist in Oshawa, Ontario. "My reaction
is that people who do this type of thing, are really, it's a dangerous
game they play."
There are two kinds of online drug
stores. The legitimate ones will only sell you drugs after you've
seen a doctor and they've received that doctor's prescription. Then
there are the rogue sites like the ones which sold us drugs. They're
satisfied with the on-line questionnaire. They call that a consultation
and charge you up to US$85 to fill it out.
The drugs we bought weren't cheap, but if you want a prescription
and you don't want to discuss it with a doctor, these rogue Internet sites
are the way to go.
We showed our stash to Decyk, starting
with an envelope containing Propecia.
The Propecia arrived loosely
packed in an envelope
is terrible. It should be in a bottle. This is so unprofessional,"
she says, showing us a broken pill. "If a pregnant woman
touched this pill, her male fetus could suffer genital deformities
Then we showed her the weight-loss
"It's actually addictive. With
this type of drug there's a tremendous potential for abuse. Now
that's a huge amount. Ninety capsules -- that would be enough for
three months. Typically this type of medication is indicated to
be used for two weeks. Using it longer than two weeks is not recommended
by the manufacturer."
When we first learned about it, we
were surprised and shocked at how easy it was for anybody to order
any product off the Internet.
Catizone heads the largest association of pharmacists in Canada
and the United States. For the past two years he's made it his
mission to slow down sales from online rogue sites.
"It's impossible to track down
some of these truly devious and rogue sites," Catizone says.
"They're very elusive, very well financed and do not have
any regard for existing laws or regulations."
But Catizone has discovered rogue
pharmacists have a high regard for the dollar.
"When we became involved in this Internet
program, we saw that many pharmacists and physicians
were working to use any loophole possible in order to turn a profit
and sell prescription drugs to people they shouldn't be selling
"It's amazing," Catizone
continues. "It's frustrating and it's frightening."
pharmacies: The role of the physician »