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Larissa Doucette

Of 72 drugs identified in shortage by FDA as of September 2011, 68, or 94%, were offered for sale online, primarily by sites on the NABP Not Recommended list, according to a new study. To determine the potential for patient safety risks related to Web sites selling shortage drugs, researchers assessed the prevalence and characteristics of such Web sites in October 2011. Researchers found 291 offers for the 68 shortage drugs being marketed online, with 71% of the offers directly targeting consumers. These offers were made by 91 online drug sellers, with 31 selling more than one shortage drug. Of the sites offering more than one drug in shortage, 68% were on the NABP Not Recommended list.

The study authors, Bryan A Liang, MD, JD, PhD, and Tim K Mackey, MAS, conclude that “FDA shortage drugs are widely marketed over the Internet,” predominantly by suspect online drug sellers and intermediaries. Liang and Mackey advise that “patients, providers, and policymakers should be extremely cautious in procuring shortage drugs through Internet sourcing.” The study, “Online Availability and Safety of Drugs in Shortage: A Descriptive Study of Internet Vendor Characteristics,” (PDF) was published in the February 9, 2012 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.