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Prozac on sale at touch of a button.

Byline: By Megan Bolam

By simply logging on to the internet people can order an unlimited amount of anti-depressants within 30 seconds from online pharmaceutical companies.

No prescriptions or medical details are needed to obtain the medication, just a credit card and an address and the drugs will be delivered to the door.

Medical experts last night warned of the dangers of taking unprescribed anti-depressants while anti-drug campaigners called for a ban on the online shopping services.

Simply by logging on to an Australian-based website, I was able to buy a drug which is only available under medical supervision in this country.

Within seconds an order was placed for 20mg x 28 tablet box of Fluoxetine/Prozac for pounds 40 to be delivered within 14 days.

The firm was just one of more than 100 companies selling discounted anti-depressants on the internet.

South Shields-based GP, Professor Colin Bradshaw, said he was concerned at the availability of the drugs but was powerless to stop the problem.

He said: "I find it staggering that people can buy anti-depressants and more addictive drugs over the internet ( it is very worrying. It shouldn't happen but they are overseas companies and what can you do to stop it?

"Anti-depressants need to be prescribed by a doctor or health professional with experience in mental health.

"One of the real problems with prescribing anti-depressants is they must be matched with the needs of the patient.

"Although Prozac is a good drug to treat people with depression it doesn't suit every person and every type of depression, particularly people who are agitated because Prozac will probably make them worse at first.

"It is important that people who need treatment for depression have a full assessment from their GP before taking any medication."

Worldwide expert on anti-depressants Shirley Trinkett, who has been campaigning against the use of anti-depressants for the past 10 years, called for the drugs to be banned from online sales.

Former prescription drug counsellor, Mrs Trinkett, of Sunderland, has published a number of books on the use of anti-depressants and her latest work on Prozac is due to be published next year.

She said: "These companies should be illegal. It is criminal that people should be able to just go on the internet and order these drugs and it could have disastrous consequences.

"It's terribly dangerous but then again, it is not much different from sitting in a doctor's surgery and having doctors dish it out.

"I think the online pharmaceutical companies should be banned from selling the anti-depressants."

A spokesman for US-based Prozac manufacturers, Eli Lilly and Co, agreed, saying they didn't support online sales of the drug.

The spokesman said: "Buying anti-depressants on the internet and bypassing doctors isn't something we are at all supportive of.

"Any decision to put a patient on anti-depressants should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional."

Journal tests North GPs

Health experts claim the number of people taking anti-depressants in the region is spiralling out of control with doctors dishing out more than half a million prescriptions in the past year.

But North doctors say the new forms of anti-depressants, Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), are only prescribed to people suffering severe symptoms of depression.

The Journal tested the theory by sending two people, who asked not to be named, to their GPs in the region to see how easy it was to be prescribed anti-depressants.

A 28-year-old woman visited her doctor complaining of difficulties sleeping and eating after experiencing a marriage breakdown.

The woman, who had no medical history of depression, told the GP she had been feeling low for over one week and was upset.

The GP offered the woman an anti-depressant and a place on a waiting list to see a psychologist, which could take up to two months.

She was handed a two-week sick note for depression and advised to take time off work to recover.

Days later a 32-year-old man visited his GP complaining of sleeplessness, stress and a loss of appetite. The engineer, who has never experienced depression, said he had been feeling low for a number of days and was under a lot of pressure at work. He was advised to take time off from his job and revisit the GP in two weeks' time when, if his situation remained unchanged, he would be prescribed an anti-depressant.

Former prescription drug counsellor Shirley Trinkett, who has been campaigning against the use of anti-depressants, said the scenarios illustrate how easy it is to get hold of anti-depressants.

She said: "The use of anti-depressants is spiralling out of control in the region and across the country. A lot of people are being prescribed medication for minor symptoms of depression, who would be better off with short-term sedation drugs or counselling. Unfortunately it is a lot easier for doctors to pull out a prescription pad and write Prozac on it than it is to offer people the help they need."
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 26, 2004
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