Press Releases

Feinstein, Sessions Call for Stricter Online Pharmacy Rules

Will crack down on sham prescriptions and illegitimate pharmacies

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) today introduced legislation to stop criminals from exploiting the Internet to illegally sell prescription drugs. The Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 targets fraud associated with illegitimate online drug sellers, particularly those who sell counterfeit drugs, provide drugs without a prescription or take money without providing anything in return. The bill requires the Food and Drug Administration to establish a registry of legitimate online pharmacy websites.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“Consumers deserve access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies,” said Senator Feinstein. “If you need to order your prescriptions online, you should be assured you are getting the real medication—not contaminated ingredients or even the wrong ingredients. This bill will put a stop to fraudulent websites that sell illegal or counterfeit drugs or take advantage of consumers.”

In 2008, Senators Feinstein and Sessions introduced the Ryan Haight Act, named for a California teenager who overdosed on Vicodin pills he bought online. The Ryan Haight Act became law and has prevented illegitimate online sales of prescribed controlled substances like Vicodin by requiring at least one in-person consultation with the prescribing doctor, as well as other safeguards. Today’s legislation builds on that effort to better regulate the online sale of all prescription drugs, not just controlled substances.

“Recent studies have indicated an explosion in the number of online pharmacies that distribute illegitimate medication—a clear violation of U.S. laws,” said Senator Sessions. “I was the lead cosponsor of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 that prohibited the Internet distribution of controlled substances without a valid prescription. The bill offered today by Senator Feinstein and myself, the Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011, would act as an extension of the Ryan Haight Act and clarify that non-controlled substances will only be dispensed pursuant to a ‘valid prescription.’ Abuse of pharmaceuticals, often by minors, is a problem we must continually combat. This act would strengthen the law to stop online vendors from selling prescription drugs without valid prescriptions and other safeguards.”

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP): about 96 percent of all Internet pharmacies do not require a prescription, are not appropriately licensed and sell unregulated drugs.

The easy accessibility of prescription drugs through illegitimate online drug sellers contributes to a growing prescription drug abuse problem. A study published in the May 2011 edition of the Journal of Health Affairs suggests the growth in high-speed Internet access has fueled prescription drug abuse.

Websites that dispense counterfeit drugs are also dangerous, frequently selling drugs manufactured in unsanitary conditions that may contain contaminated ingredients, or the wrong ingredients. A recent CBS News story found counterfeit drugs often contain paint, floor wax and boric acid.