Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007: A closer look

The Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007, a bill jointly introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is currently being considered by Congress.

We strongly favor this proposed legislation and, though we are a bit cynical about its prospects, we thought we would detail its provisions and why the law would be a good thing for consumers and for public safety.

Specifically, the legislation would serve to:

(1) provide criminal penalties for those who unlawfully dispense controlled substances over the Internet;

(2) give state attorneys general a civil cause of action against anyone who violates the act if they have reason to believe that the violation affects the interests of their state’s residents; and

(3) allow the federal government to take possession of any tangible or intangible property used illegally by online pharmacies.

The hope is that this legislation would deter rogue pharmacies that do not require prescriptions or physician consultations to distribute controlled substances such as Hydrocodone, Valium, Xanax, OxyContin, and Vicodin.

The act refers to a 2006 study that states, “a staggering 89 percent of sites selling controlled prescription drugs have no prescription requirements. According to the study, 15.1 million adults admitted to abusing prescription drugs, including 2.3 million abusers between the ages of 12 and 17. Currently, there is no way to police this illegal activity.”

Earlier this month, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University issued a study that revealed the following:

For three years straight the number of rogue Web sites selling controlled prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium, and Ritalin has increased, according to a new White Paper released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

The White Paper, “You’ve Got Drugs!” IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet, to be released today at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Rogue Online Pharmacies: The Growing Problem of Internet Drug Trafficking,” found a total of 581 Web sites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs in 2007 compared to 342 sites in 2006. Sites advertising controlled prescription drugs increased by 135 percent, from 168 in 2006 to 394 in 2007. Sites selling these drugs increased by seven percent from 174 in 2006 to 187 in 2007. Of the 187 sites found selling controlled prescription drugs this year, only two were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites.

Passage of the act should be a no-brainer and would do nothing but benefit consumers. As Feinstein and Sessions make clear:

The bill introduced today is designed to stop Internet pharmacies that sell controlled substances without a valid prescription, not pharmacies that sell drugs at a low cost to individuals who have a valid prescription from their U.S. doctors.

Unfortunately, chain pharmacies are opposing the legislation because they fear it will lead to greater federal regulation of pharmacies, which have traditionally been regulated by the states. And, as we’ve stated repeatedly here, Big Pharma and its political flunkies actually benefit from a fearful public when it comes to online pharmacies, so anything that makes online pharmacies safer actually works against Big Pharma’s financial interests.

Whether or not this bill becomes law, however, consumers do have a safe choice now: pharmacies in the eDrugSearch.com database. All must meet regulations and requirements that far exceed those in Feinstein and Sessions’ proposed legislation.

In general, the eDrugSearch Blog’s advice to U.S. healthcare consumers is that if you wait for the federal government to solve your problems, you may be waiting a very long time. We’re afraid the Feinstein-Sessions proposal may be the latest illustration of this.

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