Internet Sites Still Offering Controlled Drugs Without a Prescription-August 2008

The overall number of Internet pharmacies has dropped in the past year, but the problem of obtaining controlled substances without a prescription is not going away.

Although the number of Internet sites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs declined in the past year, 85% of these sites still do not require a prescription, according to new research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). In addition, of the 365 sites still in operation, only 2 have been certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites.”

The CASA report also identified another troubling finding: an emerging practice of Internet sites selling prescriptions for controlled drugs that can be filled at local pharmacies.

Joseph Califano, CASA’s chairman and president, said the drop in the number of Web sites (down from 581 in 2007) may reflect federal, state, and financial institution crackdown efforts, but he cautioned that in spite of these efforts, “anyone of any age can obtain dangerous and addictive prescription drugs with the click of a mouse.”

Researchers at the Columbia University—based center also found Web sites selling “medical consultations,” which enable Internet users to get controlled drugs online without a proper prescription. Benzodiazepines continue to be the most frequently offered drugs for sale, with 90% of Internet sites selling them; opioids are available at 57% of the sites, and 27% of the sites sell stimulants. Estimates by the Drug Enforcement Administration found that 11% of prescriptions filled by traditional pharmacies in 2007 were for controlled substances, compared with 80% of prescriptions filled by Internet pharmacies.

“The problem is not going away,” Califano continued. “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.”

The US Senate passed S 980, “The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008,” on April 1. Companion legislation (HR 6353) is pending in the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees.

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