Warning issued regarding purchasing drugs through Internet

October 23, 2001

Attorney General Jennifer M. Granholm and Department of Community Health
Director James K. Haveman, Jr. today warned Michigan residents to be aware of the
dangers associated with attempting to buy prescription drugs and other medical
treatments through the Internet.

Their warning was issued in the wake of public interest in obtaining antibiotics and other drugs to treat or prevent anthrax. News reports indicate a substantial increase in the sale of anthrax antibiotics; many of
these sales appear to be occurring through "on-line" pharmacies. Granholm and Haveman warned that these pharmacies may not require an in-person consultation with a physician, may not be supplying the actual drugs they advertise, and may be charging excessive prices for those drugs they do sell.

Granholm said: "The threat of anthrax infection has understandably caused our citizens enormous concern, but people shouldn't let their fear drive them to make a poor decision. Buying unneeded or inappropriate drugs is a dangerous health threat in and of itself. Consumers need to be wary of on-line promises; on-line pharmacies need to be wary of breaking Michigan law."

Haveman said: "Antibiotics are serious medicines with sometimes substantial side
effects. No one should use antibiotics without their physicians' consultation and

Under Michigan law, only a Michigan-licensed medical practitioner with authority to
prescribe drugs may prescribe medication to a Michigan patient. Furthermore,
websites that give the false impression that submitting an on-line consultation form
is an adequate substitute for a medically necessary doctor's examination may be
operating in violation of Michigan's Consumer Protection Act. In 1999, the Michigan
Attorney General's office became one of the first law enforcement agencies in the
country to take action against websites illegally sending prescription drugs to
Michigan customers without an appropriate doctor's prescription.

Granholm said: "It's bad enough that there are still websites out there trying to
convince consumers that buying their drugs without seeing a doctor is safe.
Peddling an anthrax treatment to millions of people who do not need it adds
dangerous opportunism to the mix. On-line pharmacies are on notice that Michigan
will take legal action, if necessary, to protect our consumers."

Haveman said: "All our testing for anthrax in Michigan has been negative to date. In
the unlikely event that anthrax is discovered in our state, we will have ready access
to adequate antibiotics for those exposed, making it completely unnecessary for
individuals to create their own stockpiles."

Granholm and Haveman offered these tips for buying drugs on-line:

1.Look for a license. Pharmacies must be licensed by the Michigan State Board
of Pharmacy in order to conduct business in Michigan - this includes "on-line
pharmacies." A Michigan license ensures that pharmacies are properly
dispensing only safe, FDA approved drugs.

2.Know your pharmacist. Many websites offering the anthrax antibiotic
ciproflaxacin (Cipro) or other anthrax "treatments" were opened only in
response to the September 11 attacks on the East Coast. Many of these
establishments have no history or track record which makes it especially
difficult for health and regulatory officials to determine their authenticity.

3.Get good advice before you buy. Many websites are offering alternative
anthrax treatments. Most physicians advise patients not to purchase any
anthrax treatment without a prior diagnosis. In fact, some of these alternate
treatments being peddled on-line may actually be harmful.

4.Don't self-medicate. Obtaining Cipro or any other medication through a
website without the benefit of a consultation with a physician, then
self-medicating without knowing whether a medical condition exists may be
more dangerous than the feared illness itself. Only an actual, in-person
medical examination can determine whether a drug is safe for you.

5.Don't trust a virtual doctor. In general, use only those pharmacies that fill
prescriptions after receiving a valid prescription from your doctor. Sites that
offer an "on-line" consultation or a consultation with their "medical
professionals" may be in violation of Michigan law. On-line pharmacies may
not properly screen patients or review medical histories to determine if a
patient's current prescriptions could interfere with a new treatment.

6.Buying any prescription drug from a foreign or offshore pharmacy may
increase the risk that those drugs are impure or adulterated. Foreign drug
standards also differ from those in the United States.

7.Beware of scams. If a promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There is NO anthrax vaccination available for purchase by the general public.

8.Don't give away your rights. Be wary of on-line pharmacies that require you
to agree to waive the site's future liability. If you're harmed by the treatment
you purchase, if you don't receive a treatment you've paid for, or if you feel
that you've been charged an excessive amount for the service or product you
receive, signing a waiver may prevent you from any future legal recourse.