ONLINE PHARMACIES: Clinton Proposes FDA Control
President Clinton last week announced a new plan to crack down on illegal Internet sales of prescription drugs, calling for FDA regulation of all Web sites that dispense medicine. Under the plan, online pharmacies would have to obtain licenses in all states in which they conduct business, comply with all state pharmaceutical laws and employ licensed pharmacists in order to receive FDA certification (Pear, New York Times, 12/27). The plan also would grant expanded investigative authority to the FDA and would establish federal fines up to $500,000 for violators. As part of the proposal, which will be submitted next month to Congress with Clinton's 2001 budget request, the White House also wants $10 million to "acquire the staff and technology necessary to help root out illegal online sales," the Washinton Post reports (Goldstein, 12/28). But pharmacy groups called the proposal redundant, arguing that states already regulate drug sales. Susan Winckler of the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) said, "States are already looking into these Internet sites, and they have a long history of regulating pharmacies. The FDA ... has no experience in that area. ... It will just confuse the situation." Industry officials expressed concerns that the plan could lead to similar regulation of mail-order pharmacies (Adams, Wall Street Journal, 12/29). National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Executive Director Carmen Catizone noted, "If it results in support for the current state (regulatory) efforts, we're very supportive. But if it creates another layer of bureaucracy, and it involves federal regulation of the practice of pharmacy, then it's not a good idea" (Price, Washington Times, 12/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.