You’ve Got Drugs! Internet Prescription Drug Pushers 2006 | CASAColumbia

“You've Got Drugs!” Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet: 2006 Update

“You've Got Drugs!” Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet: 2006 Update

Published: June 2006

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Background

This series of white papers documents the alarming availability of controlled, dangerous, addictive prescription drugs on the Internet. This lack of control threatens the safety of millions of Americans, contributes to prescription drug abuse and demands immediate attention.

Methods

The goal of this investigation was to determine the ease of obtaining controlled prescription medications online. Using common Internet search engines, investigators identified, over the course of a 1-week period, websites that were involved in the sale of a list of target controlled prescription drugs, and documented drug availability, prescription requirements and accessibility by children.  

Results

During the one-week analysis, researchers identified 344 websites either advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs. Drugs available over the Internet included opioids or painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin; depressants such as Xanax, Librium and Valium; and stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.

This analysis found that approximately 9 in 10 websites (89%) accessed during the study period that sold controlled prescription drugs did not require prescriptions. Of those sites that did not require a prescription, 30% advertised that no prescription was needed, 60% offered “online consultations” and 10% made no mention of a prescription.

Other findings in the report include the following:

  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax and Valium) were the most frequently offered controlled prescription drugs, sold on 84% of the websites
  • The total number of sites selling opioids and benzodiazepines had increased, while the number selling stimulants had declined over the past three years
  • Of the 11% of sites that claimed they required a prescription, 70% only required that a prescription be faxed, allowing customers to forge prescriptions or fax the same prescription to several Internet pharmacies
  • Of those sites selling controlled prescription drugs (185), only 2 were Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, certified by The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy 

Although legitimate online pharmacies can provide access to medications for patients who need them, this snapshot of the broad availability of controlled, dangerous, addictive drugs on the Internet revealed a wide-open channel of distribution. This easy availability has enormous implications for public health, particularly the health of our children, since research has documented the tight connection between availability of drugs to young people and substance abuse and addiction.

Recommendations

CASAColumbia recommends that:

  • Congress tighten federal law to prohibit Internet sale or purchase of controlled prescription drugs without an original prescription issued by a licensed DEA-certified physician, licensed in the state of purchase and based on physical examination or evaluation
  • Internet search engines, financial institutions and shipping companies collaborate with the federal government to establish a national clearinghouse to identify and shut down illegal Internet pharmacies
  • The federal government, Internet search providers, shippers, financial institutions and nonprofit organizations concerned with prescription drug abuse cooperate in creating a national nonprofit clearinghouse to identify and shut down illegal Internet pharmacies

A Note on the Language
In 2012, CASAColumbia stopped using words like “drug abuse”/“drug abuser” because the terms have negative connotations. Instead, we now distinguish between “addiction” (clinical criteria for the disease) and “risky use” (use of addictive substances in ways that increase the risk of harm but do not meet criteria for addiction). Some reports and other publications published prior to 2012 still contain this outdated language.

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Further information

Read the press release.