Online prescribing of ED meds: Safer than you might think

August 28, 2008

Patient demand for online or e-medicine prescribing appears to be growing and, along with it, concerns about the safety of prescribing over the Internet. A new study from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and others has revealed some surprising findings about the safety of online prescribing.

Patient demand for online or e-medicine prescribing appears to be growing and, along with it, concerns about the safety of prescribing over the Internet. A new study from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and others has revealed some surprising findings about the safety of online prescribing.

Researchers sought to compare the relative safety of two systems-an online prescribing service versus traditional physician consultation-for patients seeking medication to treat erectile dysfunction. The team randomly selected 1,000 patient medical records from patients seeking ED treatment between January 2001 and December 2005. Half of the patients used the online prescriber (the e-medicine group); the other half consulted a physician (the traditional medicine group) for treatment.

Using statistical analyses, researchers compared the safety of both approaches by looking at prescription appropriateness, frequency with which prescribers used the International Index of Erectile Questions, and the level of patient education provided by prescribers.

The team found that the e-medicine system “outperformed the traditional system in most of the safety variables tested.” Patient education excelled, and the authors noted that 100% of e-medicine clients received written manufacturer product information and 75% of e-medicine clients received tailored electronic messages. In comparison, study data showed that no medication instructions were recorded for 51.8% of patients who received prescriptions via a traditional physician consultation.

“Innovation, technology, and current medical practice all factor into the outcome of this study,” the University of Utah’s Mark Munger, PharmD, and colleagues wrote in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2008; 83:890-6).

“Application of an expert interview system specifically targeted to erectile dysfunction along with a continuous platform for patient client-physician communications make this particular Internet system comparable to traditional medical practice.”