Illegal US Online Drug SalesMay 23, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman, Rusty Payne, says the abuse of pharmaceuticals "is one of the biggest drug problems we are dealing with … the Internet is the biggest culprit." About $39 million in cash, bank accounts, property, and computers were seized in 2007 as a result of Internet drug investigations, he said. In 2004, the figure was $11.9 million. Now, the DEA has formed an initiative with Google, Yahoo!, and AOL to warn consumers about online drug purchases. Between 2005-2007 Payne said the official warning popped up about 80 million times.
A recent CNN investigation demonstrated how simple it is to purchase prescription drugs online without a legitimate prescription or prescribing physician. A CNN investigative reporter visited linepharmacy.com. The site returned an e-mail saying, "All orders made are still subjected to Doctor's evaluation." The reporter placed two orders for anti-depressants—Prozac and Elavil. A completed health survey appeared and the reporter submitted a credit card and shipping address. Within 24 hours, the Prozac arrived at the reporter's home; Elavil arrived two days later. Both bottles listed a doctor's name and pharmacy on the label. The reporter had not seen or spoken to a doctor and had not heard of the doctor named on the bottle.
One such Internet prescribing physician, Kareem Tannous, lives in a $4-million estate on Long Island and runs three health clinics. When confronted by CNN in front of his Valley Stream, New York, clinic, Tannous drove off without answering CNN’s questions. Roots Pharmacy workers in American Fork, Utah, also refused to answer CNN’s questions about why prescriptions from Tannous were filled. The office has a bolted security door and closed circuit security cameras; workers refused to open the door or provide the name of the owner to CNN investigators. In the reception area, dozens of boxes of Federal Express envelopes were waiting to be filled and, while CNN cameras rolled, a worker emptied a large trash bag filled with empty wholesale prescription drug bottles. Most were labeled Carisoprodol, the generic name for the muscle relaxant Soma.
Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which works to implement and enforce uniform pharmaceutical standards, said, "You can order virtually any drug in the world by simply clicking a mouse and going to various Websites that exist out there." The group blames unscrupulous doctors.
It is illegal in every state for doctors to prescribe medicines to patients whom they do not know across state lines; it is illegal in most states for pharmacies to ship prescriptions to where they have no license to operate. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has tried to lobby Congress, asking for some federal oversight or federal prosecution to reduce illegal Internet pharmacies. But, Catizone says legislators have said, "'Show us the dead bodies,' and if that was me or my family, that's a pretty sad statement for our legislators to give."
It is unknown how many people have died from overdoses related to online drug sales and it is also unknown how many people have tried to commit suicide with drugs bought online.