[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 17-Sep-2007
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Contact: Andrew Hyde
Public Library of Science

Health-related spam

A new study in PLoS Medicine has found that a third of all spam messages advertise health products such as drugs and natural health products and that it is easy to purchase prescription drugs and controlled substances advertised in these messages.

Peter Gernburd and Alejandro Jadad at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University of Toronto and University Health Network, Canada, studied e-mail messages sent to three accounts over a one month period. The three accounts received 4,153 spam messages (82% of the total messages received), and a third of this spam was health-related.

The health-related spam mostly came from the US (73%), followed by China (16%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5%).

The researchers were able to successfully purchase products purported to be Valium and Xanax (sedatives), Tramadol (an opiate pain killer), Cialis (a drug for erectile dysfunction), and Meridia (an anti-obesity drug), as well as several mixtures of natural health products to promote weight reduction or improvement of male sexual function.

"As the number of people who turn to the Internet looking for health or lifestyle problems increases," say the authors, "merchants will rise to the occasion, matching the demand. As this study has shown, current regulatory, legal, and geographic boundaries are unable to contain the flow of products across the world."


EMBARGO: MONDAY, 17 September, 5 P.M. PDT

Everything published by PLoS Medicine is Open Access: freely available for anyone to read, download, redistribute and otherwise use, as long as the authorship is properly attributed.

In this week’s press release: It is easy to purchase prescription drugs and controlled substances through spam messages on the Internet Please mention PLoS Medicine in your report and use the links below to take your readers straight to the online articles:

Citation: Gernburd P, Jadad AR (2007) Will spam overwhelm our defenses" Evaluating offerings for drugs and natural health products. PLoS Med 4(9): e274.

IN YOUR ARTICLE, PLEASE LINK TO THIS URL, WHICH WILL PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE PUBLISHED PAPER: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040274

PRESS-ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plme-04-09-jadad.pdf

Dr. Alejandro Jadad
University Health Network
Centre for Global eHealth Innovation
R. Fraser Elliott Building, 4th Floor
190 Elizabeth Street
Toronto, M5G 2C4
Tel: +14163404800 x 6903#
e-mail: ajadad@ehealthinnovation.org

About PLoS Medicine

PLoS Medicine is an open access, freely available international medical journal. It publishes original research that enhances our understanding of human health and disease, together with commentary and analysis of important global health issues. For more information, visit http://www.plosmedicine.org

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org

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