Internet shouldn't serve as family drug store

Purchases of prescription drugs over the Internet are growing with the anthrax scare, and that isn't good for the nation's health.

Web sites advertise the antibiotic Cipro -- and just about any other prescription drug a person wants. All the buyer must do is answer a few questions and provide a credit-card number to pay sometimes outlandish prices. Supposedly a doctor examines the information provided by the buyer and writes a prescription.

That is a far cry from the way prescriptions should be handled. Many drugs have side effects that can be harmful or fatal to some people, and a doctor unfamiliar with the medical history of the buyer has absolutely no way of knowing the effects the drug will have.

The Internet is a useful tool for many things, but buying prescription drugs isn't one of them. Doctors and pharmacists should be complaining.