Coroner warns on Internet drugs

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In a Public Safety Bulletin released March 20, 2007, a coroner in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, warns on the dangers of purchasing pills from online companies.

Rose Stanton, Regional Coroner for the Vancouver Island area, has linked the purchase of pills on the Internet to the recent death of a British Columbia woman.

The woman, a 57-year old from the Campbell River area, died from poisoning, according to preliminary test results. The precise cause of death is still being investigated by police and the coroners service, according to Stanton.

In late December 2006, the woman had told friends of feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms, and had experienced hair-loss and blurred vision. She died a few days later.

Pills found in the possession of the dead woman were traced back to a purchase the woman made on a health-related website. The death is thought to be the first in Canada caused by pills purchased on the Internet.

Analysis of the pills by the Provincial Toxicology Centre revealed that some contained an anti-anxiety drug, obtained normally with a prescription in Canada. In addition, the pills contained a sedative not legally sold in Canada, which has been linked to overdose deaths in other countries.

On further testing, the pills were found to contain a non-medicinal filler and revealed the presence of heavy metals, some of which can cause serious illness, according to the Bulletin.

"We cannot impress upon the public strongly enough the dangers of buying medications online from a company you don't know," said Stanton. "There is just no way of knowing what you are getting."

The website in question belonged to a group of companies which, according to the coroner's investigation, change websites and Internet addresses every few days.

The B.C. Coroners Service is recommending that if someone has purchased drugs over the Internet that they are uncertain about, they should bring them, in the original packaging, to a pharmacy for proper disposal.