A researcher posing as a middle-aged man who was already taking drugs for a heart condition found few difficulties in obtaining Viagra from one UK-based company as part of a recent Health Which? investigation into online medical sites.

In real life, such a combination of drugs could have been fatal.

But if the misuse of legitimate science to make a quick buck is dangerous, then the exploitation of people's most desperate hopes and fears in order to turn a profit is still worse, as an article in the current issue of the Wellcome Trust's Health Inform@tion on the Internet by editor Robert Kiley clearly demonstrates.

His review of quackery on the web starts with the Dr Clark Research Association - which in what is now time-honoured tradition offers a 'cure' for cancer and AIDS.

Apparently they are both caused by parasites, and can be cured by using the 'super zapper deluxe' available exclusively from Dr Clark, priced at 175 euros.

The zapper itself resembles a large computer mouse with two wires attached. But of course, there is more to it than that. You might also want to buy her books, videos, zapper wristbands, colloidal silver maker, syncrometer, ozonator, herbal supplements or 'kidney cleansing' kit. And all at bargain prices.

You may not be too surprised to hear that Dr Clark was arrested by the FBI for practising medicine without a licence last year.

Thanks to a five-year delay between the issue of the warrant for her arrest and the trial, a judge threw the case out a couple of months ago, and Dr Clark is free to resume her quackery.

Of course, Dr Clark is not alone. The Internet is awash with 'cures' for cancer based on shark cartilage and coffee enemas, slimming soaps that wash away fat, and miracle hair restorers.

All of which goes to prove that even if you can't fool all of the people all of the time, you can still fool enough to make a very tidy sum.

These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ's website at www.hsj.co.uk