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HealthExtra: Just say ‘no’ to imported drugs

Many Americans continue to buy prescription medicine online, having them mailed from foreign countries. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators, examining more than 2,000 drug packages, found that 88 percent contained medicines available in the United States. Dietary supplements, products with incomprehensible or illegible labels and medicines not available in the United States made up the balance. More than half the products had an FDA-approved generic version. Moreover, about half the sampled products are available in several national drugstore chains for $4, which is often less than shipping costs for drugs purchased online. Experts believe that consumers are attracted to online medications because they don’t require a prescription—and hence, don’t require a doctor visit—instead of any potential monetary savings. People taking several drugs examined during the investigation—including antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners and thyroid hormone replacements—require special monitoring by a healthcare provider to prevent dangerous complications. The FDA warns consumers that Internet drug sellers are unregulated and many of their products contain the wrong ingredients or toxic substances.