Many prescription drug abusers have discovered how easy it is to use the Internet to obtain painkillers, stimulants and tranquilizers without a prescription. As part of an international crackdown on prescription drug abuse, the federal government has been taking action against online pharmacies that sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription.
In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration participated in a global effort to combat the online sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs. The effort, which was called Operation Pangea V, led to seizure of drugs valued at more $10 million and the shutdown of more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites.
Feds Target Google, FedEx and UPS
The U.S. Justice Department has targeted online pharmacies since 2005. The agency’s focus has recently moved beyond individual website operators to the service providers that have enabled drug sales and deliveries. In 2011, Google agreed to pay $500 million to the Justice Department to settle charges that it displayed ads for Canadian companies that sold prescriptions illegally to U.S. consumers. Under the settlement agreement, Google acknowledged that it assisted the online pharmacies and will submit to additional compliance measures as required by the Department of Justice.
The latest companies to be targeted by the federal government are Federal Express and UPS, the largest shipping companies in the nation. Both companies are being investigated for their business dealings with illegal online pharmacies. CBS News reported that UPS announced that it is cooperating with the investigation and is exploring a settlement with the federal government. FedEx spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald called the Department of Justice probe “absurd” and denies any wrongdoing on the part of the delivery company. He also said that the company has no plans for a settlement agreement with the federal government.
FDA Launches BeSafeRx to Educate Consumers about Online Pharmacies
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has found that less than 3 percent of Internet pharmacies operate in compliance with state and federal regulations.
The FDA recommends that consumers limit their legitimate drug purchases to online pharmacies located in the U.S. A licensed pharmacist should be available for consultation and a prescription should be required for drug purchases.