Finnegan's Take

A new phenomenon is sweeping the Internet like a virus – they call it Spamiflu

Tamiflu has now overtaken Viagra as the drug most frequently advertised in spam emails. Regulators fear criminals are cashing in on public anxiety over swine flu, with fake medicines and unproven ‘cures’ being sold online.

Products claiming to contain Tamiflu and swine flu vaccines are selling over the Internet as the public prepares for a spike in cases during the winter months. Some pills contain no more than sugar or rat poison, while others include traces of active ingredients but are often produced in poor quality conditions.

There is also no shortage of con artists willing to sell antibacterial sprays (swine flu is a virus not a bacterium), face masks and unlicensed pills claiming to boost one’s immune system. The situation is so serious that the US authorities have published a booklet warning consumers not to be taken in by fraudsters.

The new wave of fake flu drugs comes as the European Parliament prepares to debate a new directive on counterfeit medicines, which MEPs have already hinted will include tighter controls on online medicines.

In the meantime, this new pandemic is so infectious that you may well have contracted it yourself. Just check your inbox.

[For more, check out EurActiv’s latest health story: Criminals cashing in on fake swine flu medicines]

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