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CNN LIVE TODAY

Interview With Todd Cooperman, Sarah Austin

Aired August 29, 2003 - 11:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Buying medication over the Internet can be easy an convenient, but it can also be risky. That's the focus of our "Daily Dose" of health news. Joining us from New York, Sarah Austin, senior features editor for "Self" magazine and Dr. Todd Cooperman, a noted researcher and president of PharmacyChecker.com. Good to see both of you.
DR. TODD COOPERMAN, PHARMACYCHECKER.COM: Thanks for having us on, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah, let me begin with you. Are a lot of people buying their medicine online? If so, why?

SARAH AUSTIN, "SELF": We took a poll and our readers told us that one in five are buying drugs online. And it can be a perfectly safe way to shop for drugs.

What we were investigating was sites that offer drugs without a prescription. And what we found was kind of scary.

WHITFIELD: And so you're finding an awful lot of online services are allowing people to get prescription-type drugs without any kind of notation from their doctors?

AUSTIN: Well I think we've all received those e-mail spams offering prescription-free Viagra or the diet drug Centramine (ph), and we were able to get those very easily.

What shocked us was what else we were able to get without a prescription. We were able to get Xanax, Ritalin, the fertility drug Clomid, Prozac and perhaps most shockingly the super-potent acne drug Acutane, which the FDA has warned you should never buy online with or without a prescription because it can cause serious birth defects.

WHITFIELD: Well, Dr. Cooperman, let me bring you in on this. At PharmacyChecker.com do you have to have a prescription in order to be able do get prescription-type drugs?

COOPERMAN: PharmacyChecker is a group that actually checks on the pharmacies that are online to see whether they are licensed pharmacies, to make sure that they have real physical addresses, to make sure their pharmacists are licensed pharmacists.

So we actually don't actually sell any drugs, but have information for people who are interested in using online pharmacies. And some of the things we advise consumers to do is first of all to make sure they go in with a prescription because if you don't go in with a prescription, first of all there's an economic loss. You will end up paying about 50 percent more for your drug if you don't have a prescription.

So, definitely, when you go online go with a prescription. Don't go to physicians, you know who will write a prescription for you who don't really know you.

Secondly, you want to make sure that the pharmacy is licensed. Licensed pharmacies will sell drugs that are made appropriately according to FDA specifications or equivalent specifications, say, in Canada. There are plenty of very good licensed sites both in the U.S. and in Canada that will sell you the right products.

WHITFIELD: So if there are certain companies in which they will distribute things such as Viagra or any other prescription-strength drugs without a prescription, shouldn't a consumer also be a little bit concerned that maybe what they think they're buying could be a placebo or perhaps it's not as good as strength as what a named-brand item would might be? What they might be paying for is what they are getting in other words. Dr. Cooperman?

COOPERMAN: Absolutely. And Sarah's article in "Self" magazine speaks right to that, how they purchase products that were made inappropriately or have information on products that made inappropriately coming from other countries, South America, Pakistan, India.

WHITFIELD: All right. I'm sorry. We're running out of time. So, Sarah, real quick, what's your best advice for folks? I'll let you have the last word in ten seconds or less.

AUSTIN: Well I would visit PharmacyChecker.com and make sure you are using a site that requires you to get a prescription from your own doctor. You need to have a face-to-face meeting with your doctor before you are prescribed medication. Taking any medicine is a serious undertaking.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Austin of "Self" magazine, Dr. Todd Cooperman, PharmacyChecker.com, thanks to both of you for joining us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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