Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Rogue Pharmacies" on the Internet

You've got drugs!

No prescription? No problem. Of 365 web sites advertising or selling controlled drugs, fully 85 percent do not require a written prescription, according to the 5th annual White Paper from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).

Although the overall number of drug-peddling web sites declined from 2007, the report found that benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium were the most frequently offered online drugs, followed by painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. 27 percent of the sites also offered Ritalin, Adderall, and other stimulants.

The paper, entitled "'You've Got Drugs!' V: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet," reported that only two of the 365 sites were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, an official body which represents state pharmacy examination boards. The total number of drug sites was down from 581 such web sites in 2007.

"This problem is not going away," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chairman and president of CASA, and a former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter. "It is morphing into different outlets for controlled prescription drug trafficking like Internet script mills and membership sites that sell lists of online pharmacies, and different payment methods like eChecks, COD and money orders."

In addition, some of the sites sell "medical consultations" which can be used to procure controlled drugs without a formal prescription. In 2007, 80 percent of prescriptions filled by Internet pharmacies were for controlled substances. According to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), only 11 percent of business at traditional pharmacies involves scheduled drugs.

In April, the U.S. Senate passed a bill endorsed last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which seeks to control the Internet traffic in prescription drugs. The bill, introduced by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), now goes to the U.S. House. According to Senator Feinstein, "This [CASA] report emphasizes the need to take immediate action to stop rogue pharmacies on the Internet.... Our Internet pharmacy legislation has passed the Senate. It's time for the House to take action and pass this important bill."

Photo Credit: Next Thing

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