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Illegal Online Pharmacies Prove Difficult to Police

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

keyboardConsumers in the United States can legally purchase prescription drugs online through websites licensed in their home state that require a valid prescription and have a pharmacist available for consultation, according to the Food and Drug Administration. However, drugs bought online illegally, with no prescription required and no instructions for use provided by the supplier, are stumping law enforcement officials.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 websites sell drugs without a prescription. Furthermore, a 2010 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids revealed that a staggering 36 million Americans have bought prescription drugs online illegally. Unfortunately, some of these transactions end tragically, such as in 2001 when California teenager Ryan Haight bought Vicodin online and fatally overdosed.

Law enforcement agencies have struggled to shut down websites suspected of selling drugs without a prescription. The FDA teamed up with Interpol and dozens of countries to get such websites, many of which are registered outside the U.S., removed, but efforts are largely unsuccessful when the companies registering the websites do not cooperate.

Many officials believe that policing online activity should be the responsibility of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the closest thing the Internet has to a regulator. However, top officials from Icann say its powers are limited. The primary responsibility of the organization, officials say, is to ensure that registration companies abide by the terms of their contracts. “Icann does not have the power or authority to ‘punish’ anyone in the law enforcement or regulatory sense,” Akram Atallah, president of Icann’s global domains division, said.

Officials have reported 4,700 websites to Icann since February that are suspected of selling drugs illegally. The sites were registered by nine different companies in eight countries, and 4,000 stayed online after reports were filed.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Icann, Regulators Clash Over Illegal Online Drug Sales

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