Washington Post Continues Series on Prescription Drug Safety
The Washington Post on Tuesday continued a five-day series, titled "Pharmaceutical Roulette," that focuses on prescription drug safety issues in the United States. Summaries of articles in the series published on Tuesday appear below.
- "Doctors Medicate Strangers on Web": In the lead article, the Post examines how Internet pharmacy managers hire physicians with "troubled histories" to write prescriptions, a practice that results in a "virtual pain-management industry that feeds millions of doses of highly addictive drugs into the shadow market for pharmaceuticals, bypassing the normal checks and balances in the physician-patient relationship." Some physicians maintain that Internet pharmacies can improve access to medications, but the lack of face-to-face consultations with patients "complicate[s] matters," according to the Post. In addition, the Post reports that the "borderless nature of the Internet works against state regulation" of prescription drug sales, with the distributor of the medications, the physicians who prescribe them and the patients who receive them often located in different states (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/21).
- "Web Physician Says He Did No Harm": The Post profiles Dr. Jon Opsahl, who answered patient telephone calls and wrote 24,000 prescriptions between April 2001 and December 2002 for prescriptiononline.com. California regulators earlier this year revoked his medical license because he wrote the prescriptions without "good faith" consultations with the patients, the Post reports. However, Opsahl maintains that "you [can] legitimize pain over the phone ... just as well as you can sitting in a room" (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/21).
- "Experimentation Turns Deadly for One Teenager": The Post profiles La Mesa, Calif., teenager Ryan Haight, who died in February 2001 from an apparent overdose of the prescription pain medication Vicodin that he purchased online (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/21).
- "The Victims": The Post profiles five individuals who died as a result of overdoses of prescription drugs, many of which the individuals may have purchased from U.S. or international Internet pharmacies (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/21).