The only thing one is required to do before buying prescription drugs online is to agree to a waiver that clears the web site and everyone who works for it and of course fill in relevant boxes with credit card details.
In a couple of minutes on the Internet, one can buy Viagra, injectable testosterone (with syringe), hormone replacement therapy, Prozac, Valium, human growth hormone, asthma inhalers, powerful pain killers, anti-biotics, Xenical (a weight loss drug), Clomid (a fertility drug) and Acittretin (for severe psoriasis).
Ordering prescription drugs online can be safe and convenient when patients use legitimate online pharmacies, but it is all too easy for patients to find themselves the recipients of counterfeit drugs from dishonest Web sites. The vast number of Web sites offering prescription drugs puts patients in “buyer beware” situations as it is often difficult for them to know if the site they are buying from is legitimate. While obtaining drugs from Internet sites that do not require prescriptions or other standard safety measures may be convenient for consumers, it can also be deadly.
According to the World Health Organization, counterfeit drug sales are expected to reach $75 billion globally in 2010, an increase of more than 90% from 2005 — and the Internet is one of the largest contributors to the distribution of counterfeit drugs to individual consumers. Those especially at risk are people searching for medications at lower prices, seeking lifestyle drugs perceived to be embarrassing, and purposely looking for unauthorized treatment; however, all consumers purchasing drugs from unknown online drug distributors are at risk.
Close to 10 percent of high school seniors have used an addictive, dangerous prescription narcotic within the past year. This is more than 10 times the rate of heroin use. Only tobacco, alcohol and marijuana are abused more frequently. Many young people wrongly believe that prescription painkillers, even if taken without a prescription, are not addictive and are much safer than street drugs. They also say that prescription drugs are “available everywhere.”
Although we don’t know precisely how much prescription narcotic drug abuse is fueled by Internet purchases, we can get a sense of the availability of these drugs by going online and searching for, say, “Vicodin without prescription” or “oxycontin without prescription.” Search engines immediately identify thousands of Web sites that advertise these drugs and offer to take any major credit card for payment. The vast reach of the Internet makes it as easy for American adolescents to buy drugs as it is for them to buy books or music. If the Internet is not already the primary enabler of this epidemic, it soon will be.
Stiffer penalties on the sellers of these drugs will not make an appreciable dent in Internet sales. Most of the Web sites offering these drugs are hosted outside the United States, with the sellers well beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. A site selling Vicodin without a prescription can be created on a computer in Uzbekistan, registered to a business address in Pakistan and deposit payments to a Cayman Islands bank. The drugs can be produced in a country that doesn’t require prescriptions for narcotics. To believe that international law enforcement cooperation will make this globalized business dangerous for the sellers would be a tragic mistake.
Tougher standards for what constitutes a valid online prescription are important if the whole system of legitimate Internet sales of prescription drugs is not to collapse. But rogue pharmacies operating in lawless locations will continue offering to sell narcotics to teenagers without prescriptions — or with the phoniest pretense of a prescription — happily using the unwitting cooperation of U.S. search engines, Internet service providers and credit card companies. We need additional legislation to require the legitimate businesses that are key intermediaries in illegal online drug transactions to withdraw their assistance.
Specifically, credit card companies and their sponsoring financial institutions should prohibit the use of their services for illicit sales of controlled substances and should enforce that prohibition. A credit card company could easily identify customers involved in such sales by putting through a test order when it learns of a Web site offering drugs illegally and accepting its credit card for payment. When such a site is identified, the credit card company should notify U.S. law enforcement authorities, who in turn would be obligated to notify Internet service providers, search engines and package delivery companies.
Search engines that profit from ads attached to their listings of Vicodin sources — such ads include “Buy Prescriptions” and “No Prescription Needed. Overnighted Totally Legal. Want To Know How?” — should automatically provide a banner warning that such purchases are illegal and describing the dangers of the drugs whenever searches for such terms are requested. Also, Internet service providers should, in a highly public way, offer customers the use of spam filters to exclude from their homes offers for illegal sales of any controlled substance, such as prescription narcotics.
None of these steps is costly or technologically challenging. The corporations whose services facilitate online drug sales to our children should have taken action years ago. It is not enough for Congress to try once more to target foreign dealers who are beyond the reach of our laws. The way to curtail online sales of dangerous drugs is to enlist American credit card companies, search engines and Internet service providers in the fight.
Only a handful of web sites belong to legitimate online pharmacies, which don’t issue drugs without a valid prescription from the buyer. Majority of the sites operate illegally or internationally, which makes it difficult to determine which country’s law should apply.
The list of drugs sold online appears endless. Some web sites take pride in claiming to have a varied stock of ‘hard-to-find’ prescription items while others ‘No prescription? No doctor? No problem!’ Some sites do ask you to fill out a form about your health, giving your age, height, weight and any other medication you are taking whereas other sites are not that choosy about to whom they send drugs.
Prescription drugs are given on individual basis, which is before issuing any drugs, your doctor will undertake a physical examination and take into account your family health history and allergies, if any and will then be available to guide you while you’re taking them. Not only does buying over the Internet undermine the safety net, a person is also at risk of buying contaminated, counterfeit or out-of-date drugs. Even worse is the idea of self-diagnosing your illness and self-prescribing. Stay safe and consult your physician for all prescription drugs. Try all natural remedies first than try the prescribe drugs, for it is better to be safe rather than dead.