The Internet is being used to advertise and distribute drugs from one nation to the next with no controls, according to a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Drugs that have not been tested and drugs that have been clearly proved to be ineffective or even unsafe are being advertised and sold on the Internet, note the authors, Dr. Uwe Troger and Professor Frank P. Meyer from the University Hospital in Magdeburg, Germany.
Companies selling such drugs deceive people with their ads. They use bogus "citations" from medical journals to lead people to believe that there is no danger in the use of their supposedly "highly effective" drugs.
These practices, it is feared, may also discourage patients from going to their doctor for prescriptions of legitimate effective medicines.
In response to a patient's question about the usefulness of a multivitamin preparation in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, Troger and Meyer investigated a drug called Vitacor 20/90 that is being advertised intensively on the Internet and marketed by a California company called Health Now which is distributing it in Germany via the Netherlands.
Health Now claims that this multivitamin product can prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases. The authors found that these claims were not based on proper evidence for the alleged beneficial effects on morbidity, mortality, and quality of life associated with coronary heart disease, heart insufficiency, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, and diabetes.
The uncontrolled advertising of drugs and "nutritional supplements" in electronic media such as the Internet poses a potential health hazard.
Source: Troger U, Meyer FP. Validity of advertising claims for multivitamin preparation Vitacor 20/90 on the internet. BMJ 1995; 310: 1563-1566 BMJ 1998;317:1069-1071.
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