The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that prescription drugs purchased from Internet drug stores can be counterfeit.

These days the airwaves and email in-boxes are filled with advertisements that tell us prescription drugs are available via the Internet at a fraction of the cost that’s charged by your local pharmacy.  We’ve all heard the pitch, “Get (insert drug names here) from (insert web site here) at a fraction of the cost that you’re being charged by your local pharmacy, and without the hassle and expense of visiting a doctor to get a prescription…”

According to the FDA the problem is that some of these sites may be selling people counterfeit drugs, drugs that contain little if any of the active ingredients, or sometimes a substitute ingredient.  Obviously this is a problem across for a whole bunch of reasons.

In an investigation conducted into the sale of the anti-obesity drug Xenical, the FDA found several web sites had sold pills that did not contain any orlistat, the active ingredient in Xenical.  The pills consisted of either a substitute ingredient – sibutramine that is used in Merida, another weight loss drug – or talc and starch. 

Everyone can figure out that talc and starch can’t help you to lose weight, so if you were unlucky enough to get stuck with these pills, you’d just be out some money.  And you might feel stupid for getting taken.

However, if you got the ersatz Xenical that contained sibutramine you could be in a bit more trouble.  You see, sibutramine not only has a different set of drug interactions than does Xenical, it is also dosed in a different manner.  Sibultramine is administered once a day where Xenical needs to be taken three times daily, so you would be taking three times the appropriate does and not be aware of any potential conflicts between the fake Xenical and the real versions of other drugs being taken.

Do you follow that?  And since Meridia/sibutramine works by messing with certain chemical messengers in the nervous system, taking too much of this drug could really cause serious trouble.

The moral of this story is that you can’t trust these Internet pharmacies.  If you’re tempted by the lure of cheaper, easier to come by prescription drugs just keep in mind that there’s a chance that you won’t get what you paid for, and in some cases get a drug that could be harmful.


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