Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi 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.

Drugstore.Com (www.drugstore.com)
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.

DrKoop.Com (www.drkoop.com)
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.

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