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January 2005 Issue

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Online Drugs Could Do More Harm Than Good

Published January 2005

Ordering drugs online might seem easy and economical, but you could be getting dangerously less than you bargained for.

Adel Sakr, PhD, professor and director of Industrial Pharmacy at the UC College of Pharmacy, says online prescriptions are often low on quality as well as cost.

Only a few countries, including Canada, have the same strict quality-control guidelines as the U.S., says Dr. Sakr. And even if the distributor is in Canada, the drug itself could be from a third-world country.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) requires that each batch of prescription medication be tested for proper therapeutically active ingredients at the appropriate strength.

More important, prescription drugs in the U.S. must be stored at the right humidity and temperature and protected from light to prevent them from degrading into a less-potent medication.

Certain drugs stored in the wrong environment can break down to the point that they become ineffective.

"This is why your bathroom is the worst place you can keep prescription medications," Dr. Sakr says. "Steam, humidity and heat can create significant changes in their stability. And leaving them in your car can be just as bad.

"If you order drugs from Canada," Dr. Sakr warns, "make sure Canadians are buying them from local pharmacies. If not, they might be counterfeit, or produced in a country without appropriate quality controls and storage."

To ensure your medications don't make you even sicker, Dr. Sakr advises, buy them from a local pharmacy and keep them in a dry, cool, closed cabinet or in your refrigerator.

And if small children are around, check that your prescriptions have child-proof caps and are well out of reach.

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