Press Releases

Senator Feinstein Urges Congress to Pass Internet Pharmacy Bill

- President mentions tragic death of Californian Ryan Haight in weekly radio address-

Washington, DC – Following President Bush’s weekly radio address in which he spoke about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged Congress to pass legislation that would stop rogue online pharmacies and protect consumers who fill legitimate prescriptions online.

The legislation, sponsored by Senators Feinstein and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. Senator Feinstein will seek to move the legislation through the Senate by unanimous consent in the coming days.

Senator Feinstein first introduced legislation in 2004 to stop rogue online pharmacies after Ryan Haight, a California high school honors student and athlete, died in 2001 from an overdose of the painkiller hydrocodone. He had purchased the painkiller from an online pharmacy after simply filling out an online questionnaire describing himself as a 25-year-old male suffering from chronic back pain. The doctor prescribing the drug never met or personally examined Ryan.

“Controlled substances are far too accessible on the Internet, where instead of a prescription, all that’s needed is a credit card,” Senator Feinstein said. “This legislation would stop dangerous rogue pharmacies and would require that all controlled substances purchased on the Internet be done with a legitimate prescription and a medical examination.” 

          The following is an excerpt from the president’s weekly radio address:

“Our drug control strategy will continue all three elements of this successful approach. It will also target a growing problem -- the abuse of prescription drugs by youth. Unfortunately, many young Americans do not understand how dangerous abusing medication can be. And in recent years, the number of Americans who have died from prescription drug overdoses has increased.

One of the factors behind this trend is the growing availability of highly addictive prescription drugs online. The Internet has brought about tremendous benefits for those who cannot easily get to a pharmacy in person. However, it has also created an opportunity for unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists to profit from addiction.

One victim of such a doctor was Ryan Haight. The young man from California was only 18 when he overdosed on pain killers that were illegally prescribed over the Internet. With only a few clicks of the mouse, Ryan was able to get a prescription from a doctor he had never met and have the pills sent to his front door. The doctor who wrote Ryan's prescription had previously served time in prison for illegally dispensing controlled substances.

We need to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future. So I'm asking Congress to work with my Administration to put an end to the illegal sale of highly addictive prescription drugs on the Internet. By working together to meet this goal, we can ensure a safer future for our children.”

Senator Feinstein’s legislation, named in honor of Ryan Haight, would amend the Controlled Substances Act. Specifically, it would: 

  • Bar the sale or distribution of a controlled substance via the Internet without a valid prescription. A practitioner must conduct at least one in-person examination of a patient in order for a prescription to be considered valid.
  • Require online pharmacies to display information identifying the business, the pharmacist and any physician associated with the website.
  • Create tough penalties for pharmacies that continue to operate outside the law.
  • Increase the penalties for illegal distributions of Schedule III, IV and V controlled substances as categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • Allow a state attorney general, after giving the U.S. Department of Justice notice and an opportunity to intervene, to shut down a rogue site across the country, rather than limiting their relief to stopping sales only to consumers of his or her state.