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Senate Approves Feinstein-Sessions Bill to Stop Controlled Substances from Being Sold Online Without Valid Prescriptions

- Bill stops Internet pharmacies from selling controlled substances without a prescription -

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to stop rogue pharmacies operating on the Internet and protect the safety of consumers who fill legitimate prescriptions online. 

The legislation approved today by the Senate is designed to stop Internet pharmacies that sell controlled substances without a valid prescription, not pharmacies that sell drugs at a low cost to individuals who have a valid prescription from their U.S. doctors. 

“Controlled substances are too accessible on the Internet, where instead of a prescription, all that’s needed is a credit card.”  Senator Feinstein said.

“The results can be tragic. I first learned about drugs on the Internet when I got a call from Francine Haight, a San Diego resident who lost her son, Ryan, to a drug overdose in 2001. Ryan was an honors student and an athlete. He obtained hydrocodone over the Internet by describing himself in an online questionnaire as a 25-year-old man with chronic back pain. So the doctor who the prescription over the Internet never met or examined him.

“This legislation would prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future. It will stop rogue pharmacies, and would require that all controlled substances purchased on the Internet be made with a legitimate prescription and a medical examination.

“A growing number of people, particularly minors, are using the powers of the Internet to purchase controlled substances without a prescription or doctor’s exam,” Senator Sessions said.  “This bill is an important step to shutting down illegitimate online pharmacies by requiring a valid prescription and proper proof of age and identity.  I am pleased the Senate approved this important legislation tonight, and I thank Senator Feinstein for her leadership and support on this issue.”

There is evidence that the number of rogue pharmacies operating online is on the rise.   The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that the number of websites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs over the Internet increased by 70 percent from 2006 to 2007 – from 342 sites to 581.  Even worse, 84 percent of these sites did not require a prescription by the patient’s physician.

Senator Feinstein first introduced legislation to stop rogue online pharmacies after learning about Ryan Haight’s death. The legislation approved today, “The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007,” was named in his honor. It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2007. 

Bill Summary

The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007 amends the Controlled Substances Act.  It would:

  • Bar the sale or distribution of a controlled substance via the Internet without a valid prescription.  A practitioner must conduct an 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 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.