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Why the FDA’s list of drugs under investigation is relevant to online pharmacies

Here’s a question: what does the FDA’s recent listing of prescription drugs with potential safety risks mean for Internet pharmacies?

At first glance, not much. The current list of twenty prescription drugs doesn’t indicate the reasons that the FDA believes that the drugs warrant special scrutiny. And it doesn’t appear, overtly at least, to relate to Internet pharmacies in particular.

Actually, it’s relevant. Here’s LegitScript’s take.

First, note this quote from

“My message to patients is this: Don’t stop taking your medicine,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, who heads the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “If your doctor has prescribed a drug that appears on this list, you should continue taking it unless your doctor advises you differently.”

Dr. Woodcock appears to be saying: we, the FDA, have some concerns about these prescription drugs. But you’ve got a relationship with your doctor, who presumably knows your medical condition; he or she should make the decision about whether these drugs are safe for you to take.

So what does this mean for websites that sell these prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, or websites that employ a physician to write a prescription based on an online questionnaire, without physically examining the patient?

Although Dr. Woodcock’s comments aren’t directly on point, they reinforce the reason that certain drugs are declared “prescription” drugs while others are “over the counter”: by definition, the former require some degree of medical supervision. It would seem logical that patients who are taking these particular prescription drugs should insist upon having a physician examine them in person, rather than simply filling out a form over the Internet.

Not dispositive. But it would seem to be another argument in favor of requiring an in-person examination.