Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Olympia – Nov. 7, 2001 - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today warned consumers to be wary of websites offering products that claim to protect people from bioterror agents such as anthrax.

In recent days, state consumer protection offices around the country have observed a wave of new websites selling products such as gas masks, home-

Download

Audio message from Attorney General Christine Gregoire:
"bioterror.mp3" (485K)

anthrax test kits, herbal-remedy protection against anthrax and air purifiers that promoters claim can render anthrax spores inactive with a beam of ultraviolet light.

"It’s extremely unfortunate that some online businesses have chosen to cash in on the public fears in the wake of Sept. 11 by selling products that are at best worthless, and at worst may pose a threat to people’s health," Gregoire said.

"Consumers should know there are no government-approved home test kits for anthrax and no approved means of eradicating anthrax at home with a light beam," the Attorney General added.

Last month, Gregoire and state health and medical representatives issued warnings about online sales of the powerful antibiotic Cipro and other prescription medications used to treat anthrax exposure. While it is legal to purchase such medications over the Internet from properly licensed outlets, the purchaser must have a valid prescription issued by a physician with whom he or she has a direct doctor-patient relationship.

Some websites claim to have doctors on staff who can prescribe the medications, but that does not constitute a valid doctor-patient relationship.

Working in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Washington and other states are now gathering information about websites that offer anthrax medications and dubious anti-terror products, Gregoire said. States are coordinating investigative work for purposes of filing possible cases under state consumer protection statutes and other laws. The Washington AG’s office is leading the effort, which involves most states.

While state officials intend to use appropriate laws to curb illegal online sales practices, Gregoire said consumers also must be alert to possible scams, and not let fear overwhelm their better judgment. "We’re trying to enforce the law, but we also need smart consumers," she said.