'I've heard that it is dangerous to take Prozac, and smoke marijuana, or take other illegal drugs. Does anyone know if that is true?' asks Sara. According to RxList, which bills itself as 'the internet drug index', the anti-depressant is the fifth most commonly prescribed drug in the US - and, Viagra notwithstanding, must be the most discussed.
In addition to providing a depth of information about specific drugs that would have regulators here reaching for the Temazepam, the US site has ranked the top 200 prescription drugs for the past three years - and runs remarkably well-used discussion forums for each and every one. Users proliferate and expert interventions are sparse.
Of course, RxList carries all the standard disclaimers: it is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. . . But then again, who reads disclaimers?
Here in the UK, PharmWeb adopts an altogether less populist approach which, despite a claim to be 'serving the patient and health professional' is primarily oriented towards the latter. Its discussion forum has been much exercised of late by the urban myth linking breast cancer to anti-perspirant deodorants.
Despite recent moves by some of the pharmaceutical companies, however, UK drug industry regulators at the Medicines Control Agency have little to contribute to the debate about pharmaceutical advertising. The site contents itself with the observation that it is illegal to advertise prescription-only medicines to the public.
Nor is the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry more forthcoming.
Maybe some of its 100 member companies - most have website links from ABPI's membership list - are more willing to put their case.
Then again, what future does UK regulation have if patients can get the information they want from the US anyway?
These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ's website at www.hsj.co.uk