Addicted to the Internet
By Devin D. O'Leary
MAY 10, 1999:
Can't seem to get down to the local Walgreens to refill your Ritalin
prescription, sonny boy? No worries. As usual, the Internet has
come to our rescue. There are dozens of pages on the Internet
that allow computer-savvy consumers to shop for cheap drugs without
ever having to confront a creepy old guy in a white lab coat face-to-face.
The better sites allow you to compare drugs, their effects, side-effects
and possible dangerous interactions with the other happy denizens
of your medicine cabinet. Here is a run-down of some of the more
useful pharmaceutical sites out in cyberspace.
This massive site seems to be the place to score stuff for your
medicine cabinet on the Internet. Although it's largely business-oriented,
there are plenty of user-friendly touches to keep window-shoppers
coming back for more. You can browse categories for health, beauty,
wellness, personal care and pharmacy--meaning you can land anything
from toothpaste to eyeliner to Valium in one convenient electronic
stop. For general health info there's a resource center, a Q&A
section and a medical reference database (pick you disease and
get a handy, info-packed print-out). If you're interested in getting
anything stronger than Tylenol, you'll have to mail your prescription,
transfer your account from another pharmacist or have your doctor
contact the Drugstore.Com folks directly. Each drug listing in
this site's exhaustive catalogue is accompanied by a very detailed
chart explaining the common use, directions, cautions, side-effects
and any other additional information. The Amazon.Com of drugstores.
Got Viagra? You bet. Six 100mg tablets will run you $46.14
Planet Rx (www.planetrx.com)
This site is pretty much all business with the sale of drugs,
vitamins and herbs eating up the majority of someone's disk space.
There are tiny sections doling out advice on topics like birth
control, allergies and women's health, but they function as little
more than product endorsements. There is one very useful tool
here, though. The "drug interaction" page allows you
to enter in any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines
or vitamins you may be taking. A quick search will tell you if
they are dangerous when used in combination. The prescription
drug catalog features only brief descriptions of drugs and their
usage, but does include a pronunciation key (all the better to
explain things to the poison control center). Bonus points are
awarded to Planet Rx for kindly letting you know if there is a
generic substitute available for your drug of choice. Got Viagra?
Absolutely. Six 100mg tabs will run you $51.19.
Yes, the beloved, bearded former surgeon general of the United
States now has his own Web site. Koop.Com concentrates largely
on health-related articles. You can browse through handy write-ups
on assorted wellness, diet and healthcare topics. A health news
section keeps you abreast of the latest scientific discoveries.
A page full of "interactive communities" allows you
to trade info with other health-minded folks in chat rooms and
to post medical questions on a message board. Old Doc Koop's "health
resources" page provides sickly surfers with insurance information,
health-related Web site reviews and medical encyclopedias. Koop's
got both a "personal drugstore" page and a "medicine
cabinet" page for over-the-counter unguents. Unfortunately,
the personal drugstore is little more than a links page to local
and national on-line pharmacies that can actually fill your prescription.
Sadly, the former surgeon general does not deal prescription drugs
directly to the public. There is some information on specific
drugs here (dosage, usage, the usual stuff), but you've got to
sign a big disclaimer to get it. Got Viagra? No, but they can
direct you to several places that do.
Green Tree (www.greentree.com)
On the more holistic side of things, we've got the pleasantly
non-New Age entrepreneurs at Green Tree who specialize in natural
vitamins and herbs. Don't like the idea of polluting your body
with drugs? Then how about dumping a whole bunch of untested plant
and mineral extracts into your system? In all honesty, Green Tree
comes across as a very professional site filled with the usual
health news, message boards and live chat rooms. For medical advice,
there's the riveting "Ask Dr. Blonz" column. If you
want to purchase vitamins, herbs or other tinctures from Green
Tree, you'll have to fill out some on-line forms and create a
new account. Once a member of the Green Tree community, though,
you'll find some surprisingly helpful info. Each earthy "drug"
listing is accompanied by usage, dosage and side effect info as
well as a list of "relevant studies" which discuss the
relative merits of said potion. Got Viagra? Not as such, but there
is an article on the as-yet-unavailable herbal substitute ArginMax.
In the meantime, try a little bee pollen and hope for the best.