AMA to set guidelines for Internet prescriptions
June 22, 1999
Web posted at: 11:44 a.m. EDT (1544 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Linda Ciampa
(CNN) -- In light of the growing number of prescription drugs available on the Web, doctors attending the annual meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) in Chicago this week will vote on the association's first set of Internet prescribing rules.
Consumers can order a variety of prescription drugs over the Internet without ever seeing a doctor. All that is required is the answering of a few questions and a credit card.
"The concern here is that the patient will be harmed because there is no complete history, or physical exam, and we don't have all the risks explained to the patient," said Dr. Donald Parmisano of the AMA.
A simple online search can turn up dozens of sites offering everything from Viagra for impotence and Propecia for baldness to Xenical for weight loss. Some overseas sites are selling drugs without requiring a prescription.
In most cases a questionnaire is filled out and reviewed by an online doctor, and the drug is delivered within days.
Critics say it is not safe for doctors to prescribe to patients they have not actually seen. A man who can't get Viagra from his doctor because he is in bad physical shape could order it over the Web. A woman who wants to use Xenical to lose a quick 10 pounds could overstate her weight problem on the questionnaire.
"A physician or knowledgeable person who understands what they're doing should be supervising or guiding a person through all of this," said Dr. Pamela Peeke of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Still, one online pharmacist told CNN that patients who are too embarrassed even to seek treatment in person can benefit from getting their prescriptions on the Web.
There are also other advantages online for medicine. E-mail between doctors and patients has jumped 200 percent in the past year, and many patients find valuable information about medical conditions on the Internet.
The AMA says all aspects of medicine on the Web will be considered before any votes are taken.
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AMA Annual Meeting
National Institutes of Health
Food & Drug Administration
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