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Consumers Still Buying Risky Imported Drugs Online: FDA
Date:11/1/2007

Many seem to be doing so to avoid need for a prescription, agency says

THURSDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Many Americans are buying drugs over the Internet from foreign countries in an apparent effort to avoid the need for a prescription, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

But many of these drugs are unregulated, posing a health risk to purchasers, the officials said.

Also, despite the widespread belief that many imported drugs cost less than those available in the United States, the medicines from abroad have generic equivalents that would cost American consumers less money, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said.

During a year-long investigation, the FDA said it found that 88 percent of the 2,069 drug packages it examined appeared to be prescription medicines also available in the United States. The other 12 percent were dietary supplements, foreign products with labeling that was illegible or incomprehensible, and medications not available in the United States.

"The data lead us to believe that many people are buying drugs online not to save money but to bypass the need for a prescription from their doctor, since these Web sites typically do not require the purchaser to have a prescription," Randall Lutter, the FDA's deputy commissioner for policy, said in a prepared statement. "In essence, they seem to be getting and using prescription drugs without a prescription, an intrinsically risky practice."

The agency said it also found that 53 percent of the drugs sampled have FDA-approved generic equivalents. The agency also noted that earlier studies had found that generic drugs in the United States were cheaper than comparable drugs in Canada or western Europe.

Forty-seven percent of the approved generic versions of the drugs the agency sampled can be bought for $4 at several national chain pharmacies. That price is often lower than the shipping costs for the same foreign
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