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:
- 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.
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.