Virtual Viagra

Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is seen at her home in Atlanta, Ga., May 28, 1968.
AP
A special investigative report from CBS 'This Morning' Correspondent Roberta Baskin reveals just how easy it is for someone to obtain a potentially dangerous, but very popular drug - Viagra. You need only a computer and access to the Internet.

All it takes is a click, and you, too, can order the most popular drug in America: Viagra. We found it available on half a dozen Web sites; call it a "virtual housecall" - you never get to talk to your doctor.

Dr. Neal Barnard is head of Physicians For Responsible Medicine: "I had no clue that a person could do this."

It is easy to stock up. Cyberspace doctors make you pay up front, so the first thing they do is make sure your credit card information is accurate.

Dr. Barnard isn't surprised at that. "You know," he says, more and more doctors really are turning into computers, and their offices are a lot like just cash registers."

What cyberdoctors can't check is the accuracy of the information you give them. In short, anybody with a credit card who answers the form correctly can order Viagra. But Viagra isn't safe for everyone. Since its approval last April, 69 reported deaths have been related to Viagra.

Dr. Barnard says, "There is no question that, if you can do it with a click of a mouse, all kinds of people who should never be going near Viagra are going to be getting their hands on it, and perhaps paying the price down the road."

You don't have to be in San Antonio to go to the Pill Box pharmacy. Entrepreneur Bill Stallknecht was one of the first pharmacists to offer to connect you to an online doctor. He makes no apologies for what he sees as a new frontier.

"Most medicine practiced anyway isn't face-to-face," he says. "It's over a telephone. Patients like the freedom to be able to choose and get services that they are looking for."

And some 30 to 40 new "patients" a day are turning to the Pill Box for their Viagra. Many have questions about taking Viagra. Now, Texas state regulators are asking some questions of their own. Stallknecht admits he is being investigated.

"I think there are huge concerns," says Nancy Dickey, president of the American Medical Association, adding that these Web sites can be hazardous to your health. "It may have similar questions to what your doctor may have asked you. But it is not seeing a doctor. It is bypassing the safety net that was there to protect patients both from disease they know they have and from complications they may not know they are at risk for."

Stallknecht defends the $85 online consultation, saying, "after you fill out the questionnaire, it's virtually the same as seeing your private doctor."

Stallknecht adds, "And they have to answer it truthfully, or you can't ge it."

He points out, too, that you can lie in a doctor's office, or have someone else go see the doctor to obtain the prescription and then give it to you.

But Dickey says "the patient-doctor interaction is far more than a series of questions that you can check off and I can add them up and say, 'OK here are your two prescriptions'."

But, for now, more cyberspace doctors and pill purveyors are popping up online all the time, and if there ought to be a law, there isn't one yet.

Says Dr. Barnard, "What it's going to take is somebody to be injured. A person who shouldn't have it, where a doctor would have instantly have known that this person was a walking heart attack and should have never had Viagra."

Reported by Roberta Baskin
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