Online Company Offers Cipro Prescriptions, Faces ‘Controversy,’ Investigation
A "recent spike" in demand for the antibiotic Cipro, the only drug approved by the FDA to treat inhalation anthrax, has buoyed the Raleigh, N.C.-based Internet company MedicalWeb.com, which supplies the drug to patients nationwide, the Wall Street Journal reports. About 30 Web sites advertise Cipro sales, and at least eight direct patients to MedicalWeb.com. A company subsidiary, VirtualMedicalGroup.com, links patients with doctors who write online prescriptions for Cipro, and a second subsidiary, 1stOnlinePharmacy.com, sends the drugs to patients. After a number of anthrax cases were reported recently, the company has received about 100 orders for Cipro per day, up from about six to 10 per month before last month. However, MedicalWeb.com is facing "controversy," as the North Carolina Medical Board has launched an investigation into the company. According to the Journal, the group has questioned the company's "reliance on prescriptions from doctors who have never physically met patients." The practice, which many medical groups have criticized as "inappropriate and unprofessional," is legal in most states. MedicalWeb.com CEO Tania Malik said that the company has a network of 35 physicians who write prescriptions for patients after a "virtual office visit," while some "rogue" Web sites "only offer a checklist of questions." In addition, public health officials have expressed concern that a "flood" of Cipro prescriptions "unnecessarily could deplete supplies" and lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of anthrax. MedicalWeb.com officials said that they "are being responsible" and limit patients to a seven-day supply of Cipro, rather than the 60-day supply recommended to treat a case of anthrax (Angwin, Wall Street Journal, 10/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.