Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bitter Pills from Internet pharmacies Bitter Pills from Internet pharmacies

Business Week: Bitter Pills gives us another big reason not to buy drugs over the Internet. You just don't know what you are buying:
From the outside, it looked like any other white-walled, terra cotta-roofed bungalow in sun-bleached Belize, perhaps someone's quaint tropical hideaway. Inside, however, the house's peripatetic occupants didn't act like they were on vacation. Workers in sneakers, shorts, and rubber gloves produced mountains of allegedly counterfeit prescription pills. Hundreds of pounds of raw ingredients came from China via a broker in New Jersey. The drugmakers whipped up their products in a dented mixing machine and blender. Finished tablets—imitations of Viagra, the cholesterol medication Lipitor, and Ambien, a sleep aid—were stored in gray garbage bins before being shipped out in plastic sandwich bags. The pills allegedly were hawked via spam e-mail and sold, without prescriptions, from such Web sites as www.planetpharmacy.bz...

The profusion of fakes puts consumers at risk. Some online drug shipments seized by U.S. authorities have turned out to be near-replicas of brand-name products. But others lack enough active ingredients to do any good, or are too potent. Either way, they endanger users.

Foreign substances sometimes end up in the pills. Phony Viagra made in Thailand has contained vodka; bogus Tamiflu recovered in San Francisco was manufactured with Vitamin C and lactose. Online purchases BusinessWeek made in connection with this article yielded imitations of Lipitor and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax that laboratory tests showed had no active ingredients whatsoever.

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