Press Releases

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved a House version of legislation sponsored 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 also would require a health practitioner to conduct an in-person examination of a patient in order for a prescription to be considered valid. Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Mary Bono-Mack (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) co-sponsored the House version.

The legislation now heads to President Bush for his signature.

“Finally we can stop these rogue online pharmacies once and for all,” Senator Feinstein said. “We know of at least 18 people that have died due to overdoses from drugs purchased on the Internet through these pharmacies and even more who have entered rehabilitation or suffered injuries due to these drugs. No more. I look forward to this important legislation becoming law.”

“Today’s passage of the Online Pharmacy Protection Act is a critical step toward blocking the sale of illegal prescription drugs over the Internet,” Senator Sessions said. “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 that we take steps to shut down these unscrupulous vendors. I am pleased Senator Feinstein and I have worked together to see this important piece of legislation to fruition, and I look forward to President Bush signing it into law.”

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.

Senator Sessions was the lead sponsor of the measure in the 109th Congress.

The bill 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.

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.