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Cipro Needs a Remedy,
Part I

Part II

Natalia J. Garland

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Recently, I received some spam e-mail from the The Pharmacy Guide of Mexico. They were selling a "guide" to Mexican pharmacies for $29.95, with the sales logo: "Do you feel prepared? It's up to you..." The website listed medications you could buy in Mexico, including antibiotics. I'm not one to panic over bioterrorism, but preparation is different from panic. No, I do not feel personally prepared. I trust that my government is taking steps to protect all citizens, and I believe that our leaders are sincere in wanting to protect us. At present, however, there is not enough Cipro to go around.

There are websites openly selling Cipro. At the Cyber Physicians website, they are selling 6 Cipro tablets for $120.00. That breaks down to $45.00 for the pills, $15.00 for shipping, and $60.00 for a "consultation fee." The F.T.C. (Federal Trade Commission) reports that there are more than 200 websites selling bioterrorism protection items such as gas masks, test kits, and dietary supplements with the assertion that their products will detect, prevent or treat contamination. As of November 19th, forty e-mail warnings were issued by the F.T.C. telling these websites to remove such content immediately.

Foreign-made Cipro is illegal to import, whether you buy it over the internet or try to take it across the border. The F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) does not approve of foreign brands of Cipro. The F.D.A. has concerns that pills purchased over the internet could be counterfeit, contain the wrong dosage, or be contaminated and harmful. If you order over the internet, you may not receive any product at all. There is little or nothing the U.S. government can do to help you get your money back. There is also concern that the average citizen cannot be trusted to use Cipro only if needed and in the correct amounts.

Some Americans who have no insurance, or who are elderly and lack adequate coverage, frequent the Mexican border towns to buy essential medications. At the Mexican border, for example, American border officers will confiscate Cipro upon your return to the States. The Mexican type Cipro is then sent to an F.D.A. lab in Cincinnati for testing. I was unable to find out if any Mexican brands of Cipro had actually been tested and what, if any, ingredients are lacking, sub-standard, or incorrect. Americans who buy medication in Mexico are permitted to bring across a number of other products, however, including penicillin and other antibiotics.

Here is the recommended adult dosage for Cipro, according to the F.T.C., for post-exposure of inhaled anthrax. Adults should take 500 milligrams orally twice per day, as soon as possible after the exposure, for 60 days. Now, if you had purchased Cipro over the internet from Cyber Physicians, the recommended dosage would have cost you $750.00, not including shipping and the consultation fee. If you happen to live near the Mexican border, you could purchase a Mexican brand of 100 Cipro tablets for $12.99. That comes to about 3 cents per tablet. Since you need 120 tablets for one adult, you would have to purchase a second bottle, making your total $25.98. (It is easy to understand why so many Americans cross the border for medications.)

Or, you might not end up with any Cipro at all. The only approved manufacturer of Cipro in America is Bayer Pharmaceutical Division. At present, according to the H.H.S. (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) there is enough Cipro "in combination with other antibiotics" to treat about 2 million people, (18.6 million doses, which Bayer donated to the H.H.S.). Bayer has agreed to manufacture up to 300 million more tablets. The H.H.S. has agreed to pay 95 cents per tablet for the first order of 100 million tablets (or 95 million dollars), 85 cents per tablet for the second order, and 75 cents per tablet for the third order.

As of January, 2002, there is supposed to be enough Cipro in America to treat 12 million people. The H.H.S. has stockpiles of Cipro which are maintained by the H.H.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The H.H.S. states that it has eight 50-ton packages of Cipro that can be delivered anywhere in America within 12 hours. They expect to increase this to 12 packages in the future.

Regarding cost, Bayer is offering a much better deal than Cyber Physicians. But, regarding cost, probably nothing beats the Mexican brands. Human life is priceless, but business is a reality. It is the availability and distribution realities that I feel most concerned about. Bayer and the government agencies advise not to take Cipro unless you are infected with the bacteria. So far, that makes sense. They advise a doctor's examination due to possible allergic reactions and side-effects. They also do not want individual citizens creating their own stockpiles of Cipro. This is where I encounter questions.

What if my doctor does not diagnose me accurately? What if my doctor himself dies from inhaled anthrax? What if the local hospital cannot handle thousands of people infected with anthrax? What if the hospital is destroyed by a suicide bomber? What if there are some terrorist sympathizers among Bayer's employees and they poison the Cipro? I will discuss my ideas in Part II. (Written 01/07/02: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002 Natalia J. Garland