Press Releases

House Panel Approves Bill to Stop Controlled Substances from Being Sold Online Without Valid Prescriptions

- Senators Feinstein and Sessions co-sponsored companion legislation in the Senate -

Washington, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today approved legislation to stop rogue pharmacies operating on the Internet and protect the safety of consumers who fill legitimate prescriptions online. U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) co-sponsored a companion bill which has already passed the Senate.

The House version, co-sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Mary Bono-Mack (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-TX), 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.  “This legislation would require that all controlled substances purchased on the Internet be made with a legitimate prescription following a medical examination.”  

I encourage the full House to take up and pass this important bill so that we can stop these rogue pharmacies once and for all,” Senator Feinstein added.

“Enactment of the Online Pharmacy Protection Act is a crucial step in the work to reduce improper and illegal prescription medication offered over the Internet,” said Senator Sessions.  Controlled substances are too easily obtained without valid prescriptions and without proof of the buyer’s age or identity.  Law enforcement reports that this is a growing problem among children and adolescents, and it is important we take steps to block the activities of unscrupulous vendors.  I am pleased Senator Feinstein and I have worked together to see this important piece of legislation to fruition.” 

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported earlier this year that Controlled Substances are readily available on the Internet.  CASA identified 365 websites that advertising or sell controlled substances online.  Even worse, 85 percent of these sites did not require a prescription by the patient’s physician. 

Senator Feinstein first drafted legislation to stop the dangerous practices of rogue online pharmacies after Ryan Haight, a California high school honors student and athlete, died in 2001 from an overdose of the painkiller Vicodin.  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. 

The legislation approved today, “The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007,” was named in his honor. The legislation was approved by the Senate on April 1. 

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.