Drug Law

DEA Cracks Down on Illegal Drugs Obtained Online

| by Drug Enforcement Administration

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- New Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) regulations implementing the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy
Consumer Protection Act of 2008 go into effect Monday, April 13. These
regulations will help to prevent the illegal diversion of powerful controlled
substances by means of the Internet. Such medications can cause harm to
consumers for whom they were not intended. The Interim Final Rule was published
in the Federal Register this week, and the public has 60 days from its
publication date to submit comments to the DEA.

The Ryan Haight
Act, named for an 18-year-old who died after overdosing on a prescription
painkiller he obtained on the Internet from a medical doctor he never saw, was
enacted on October 15, 2008 through the joint efforts of his mother, Francine
Haight, and members of Congress, with the support of the DEA.

“Now that this
law has been put into force it will be harder for cyber-criminals to ply
controlled substances over the Internet and easier for us to prosecute them,”
said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “These regulations add
important new provisions to prevent the illegal distribution of controlled
substances through the Internet. Its implementation will increase Internet
safety and help prevent tragedies like Ryan Haight’s death from happening
again.”

The statute
amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by adding several new provisions to
prevent the illegal distribution of controlled substances by means of the
Internet, including:

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  • New definitions, such as
    “online pharmacy” and “deliver, distribute, or dispense by means of the
    Internet”;
  • A requirement of at least
    one face-to-face patient medical evaluation prior to issuance of a controlled
    substance prescription;
  • Registration requirements
    for online pharmacies;
  • Internet pharmacy website
    disclosure information requirements; and
  • Prescription reporting
    requirements for online pharmacies.

Consistent with
the CSA itself, the Ryan Haight Act relates solely to controlled substances,
specifically, those psychoactive drugs and other substances–including narcotics,
stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids–that are placed in
one of the five schedules of the CSA due to their potential for abuse and
likelihood that they may cause psychological or physical dependence when abused.
Controlled substances constitute approximately 10 percent of all drug
prescriptions written in the United States. The amendments to the CSA made by
the Ryan Haight Act, as well as the regulations being issued here, do not apply
to non-controlled substances.

Consumers are
advised that some websites operating on the Internet are legal, and others are
not. Many of the legitimate Internet pharmacies have voluntarily sought
certification as “Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites” from the National
Association of Boards of Pharmacy. However, unscrupulous or “rogue” Internet
pharmacies exist only to profit from the sale of controlled prescription
medicines to buyers who do not have a legitimate medical need for the
medications. These rogue sites lack quality assurance and accountability, and
their products pose a distinct danger to buyers. They pretend to be authentic by
operating legitimate-looking websites that advertise powerful drugs with the
approval of a doctor, but such doctors are employees of the drug trafficking
organization. Because prescription medications are powerful drugs that have
legitimate uses but can also be harmful or even lethal, DEA maintains a hotline
for reporting suspicious Internet pharmacies. Call 1-877-792-2873 or click on
the “Report Suspicious Internet Pharmacies” icon on the home page of www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.

Like Ryan
Haight, nearly one in five teenagers has used a prescription medication to get
high, according to the 2006 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS)
conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The same survey found that
two in five teens believe the fallacy that prescription medicines obtained
without a prescription are “much safer” to use than illegal drugs. The 2007
Monitoring the Future survey sponsored by the National Institute on
Drug Abuse found that 7 of the top 11 drugs abused by high school seniors are
either prescription or over-the-counter medications. Unfortunately, prescription
drugs are now the drug of choice for a large percentage of new initiates among
teenagers, even surpassing marijuana.