CBS Now Sees Danger in Online Drug Purchases

     Last summer, news reports on the CBS “Evening News” with Bob Schieffer downplayed or outright ignored the facts that re-importing prescription drugs is illegal and can be unsafe or unreliable. But now with a new anchor at the helm, the program took a look at the dangers of online pharmacies in light of a federal raid on a fake online pharmacy.


     “It sounds so good, cheap prescription drugs just a click away on the Internet,” said anchor Katie Couric as she introduced the September 20 “Eye on Medicine” report, but, “it could be really dangerous because you may not be getting what you think you are.”


     Correspondent Jim Stewart told viewers of a federal bust of “11 people and an Atlanta-based company with a scheme to sell the fake drugs over the Internet.” Stewart noted that the phony drugs were manufactured in “a rented house in Belize” and the Web site peddling them told customers it was a Canadian pharmacy selling re-imported drugs.


     Following Stewart’s piece, Couric interviewed CBS chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, who insisted it’s dangerous to order drugs online because “you have no idea what you’re actually getting.” LaPook added that “it’s tough enough” to get the precise amounts and mix of ingredients “in a legitimate medicine, much less one that’s made in some basement.”


    CBS’s top doc closed the interview urging viewers to check out for a list of legitimate pharmacy Web sites where they can legally obtain safe prescription drugs. A visit to the CBS Web site urged readers to look for “Internet websites that display the seal of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies.”


     As the Business & Media Institute noted last year, the media have often ignored or downplayed the illegal nature of drug reimportation, a ban implemented in part from safety concerns.


     “The test results of our analyses offer proof positive that buying prescription drugs online from unknown foreign sources can be a risky business … Consumers who believe they are getting equivalent products from reputable sources are being misled and putting their health at risk,” FDA Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford wrote in a July 13, 2004, press release.


     Yet on the June 29, 2005, “Evening News,” the network lamented Canada’s proposed ban on bulk drug exports to the United States. In that story, reporter Mika Brzezinski left out that drug re-importation is illegal. What’s more, the CBS correspondent pointed to how states like Illinois are helping people re-import drugs from countries like the United Kingdom, but didn’t give viewers any warning about safety issues from Internet sales or tips on where to go to find reliable pharmacy Web sites.