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Our Opinion: A call for caution

October 21, 2001

As fear over anthrax grows, the desire to cross the border and cheaply and easily obtain a form of ciprofloxacin may grow. Yes, forms of the cirprofloxacin are available across the border, and you do not need a prescription.

We would urge people to think twice about crossing the border for the medication for several reasons. First, if you have not been exposed to the anthrax bacteria, taking ciprofloxacin may do more harm than good. According to federal authorities, the more people take such a drug without a need, the more resistant bacteria may become to it. Also, the medication has side effects that could affect a person's daily life.

Another issue people need to think about is whether the medication they are seeking is truly what they think it is. Authorities have voiced concern there is fake medication that can be obtained across the border or even on Web sites offering cheap forms.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain medications for treatment of anthrax. The brand, Cipro, is the only approved form of ciprofloxacin that can be sold in the United States. People can only legally obtain it with a prescription. However, it is not the only medication for anthrax. There are others, among them penicillins and doxycycline, that are effective treatments.

It is natural and certainly understandable for people to be concerned about anthrax, particularly as reports of cases spread. Still, people need to use good judgment, and if they have concerns they should consult with their physicians or get information from the FDA and Center for Disease Control. Both have Web pages with useful information.

Authorities have said there are stocks of Cipro if needed. People should not self prescribe and even doctors are urged not to prescribe such medications just so people can have them on hand.

This is a difficult time. And as we continue our war against terrorism, there are going to be more difficult times to come. The best thing we can do is educate ourselves. The smarter we are in how we address terrorism, the more easily we will defeat terrorists.

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