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This article by was prepared for the

October 24, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

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Between the Lines

E-mail is a terrific vehicle for spreading rumors. What

used to be whispered at the watercooler and passed on from one person

to another can now be transmitted, by touching a key in your address

book, to everyone you know. Immediately.

Just last week we received a very credible E-mail warning, the one

about "don’t go to a mall on October 31." It was forwarded

from a college professor with the caveat that "I don’t usually

send on these E-mails but I knew where this came from." It cited

a woman who discovered her boyfriend had been involved in the

terrorist

plot, and before he left the country he gave her the "mall on

Halloween" warning.

The FBI has checked that out, according to David Emery, appearing

on Marty Moss-Cowaine’s WHYY Radio Times show on Monday, October 22.

Emery, who has a hoax investigation web page

(www.urbanlegends/about.com/mbody.htm),

says that the mall rumor has been checked out by the FBI. Rack up

another rumor for the "urban legend" heap.

Everyone’s current worry is anthrax-laced mail. The rumor mill ran

close to home last week when we got an official looking fax, a

"public

service announcement" from Michael McCormick of Rochester, New

York, with an official-sounding webpage called www.Medicines.MD. (In

a telephone interview he explained that he obtained the ".md"

domain name as a result of a small country, Muldova, selling its

domain

name heritage.)

"Generic CIPRO now available for U.S. Citizens," proclaimed

the press release. It quoted the Red Cross and FEMA as saying that

needed prescription drugs should be on hand in case of a biological

attack. The press release goes on to say that Ranbaxy Ltd., in India,

one of the world’s largest producers of Ciprofloxacin, "is waiving

the prescription requirement for U.S. citizens in light of the current

threat. The prescription waiver applies only to those antibiotics

used in cases of biological attack."

Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc. has a Princeton office on College Road.

Can this be true, that this company is doing an end run around the

FDA to illegally market their generic version of a patented drug in

the United States? Putting the question of patent law aside, many

experts would oppose blanketing the country with self-prescribed

antibiotics.

We called McCormick. Turns out he is not selling Cipro himself. Oh

no, that would make him a pharmacist, and though his website is called

www.e-pharmacy.md he is really the author of a book that

tells how to import drugs cheaply. We asked whether he isn’t causing

trouble for Ranbaxy.

"I am sure I didn’t meet official protocol," said McCormick,

"but if they are selling more of it they can’t be too awfully

angry."

Oh yes they can. A call to Ranbaxy on College Road. drew this reply

from Chuck Caprariello, director of marketing and business

development.

"I got a report on this website, saying we are making Cipro

available

without prescription," says Caprariello. "There is no basis

for that comment, nor do we have that product available in the United

States. In the U.S. there is patent protection for that product and

we recognize that."

Another rumor quashed. But will the malls be empty on Halloween?


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