ONLINE PHARMACIES: Feds Push for More Regulation
Officials from the FDA and FTC told members of Congress Friday that the Internet is rapidly becoming a haven for unlicensed online pharmacies. "It is not safe today to purchase drugs from an online pharmacy that is not a known entity," testified Dr. Janet Woodcock of the FDA, adding that such sites could be foreign, "could be anywhere. Many are engaged in illegal activity" (Klein, Media General/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/31). Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA) announced he will introduce legislation, "along the lines" of an FTC proposal, to "require that any Web site selling medication state its name, address and telephone number." Klink stated, "We are asking nothing more from the electronic commerce people than we are asking from anyone else who is in business" (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/31). That proposal alarms the online pharmacy industry, which believes there are already adequate regulations. "Rogue operators exist because of lack of compliance and enforcement of existing state and federal regulations," testified William Razzouk, CEO of PlanetRx.com (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/31). Online pharmacies have grown exponentially, from 26 in January to over 400 currently. Their popularity with Internet users has "lure[d] everyone from quick-buck artists to online retailer Amazon.com," which has invested $570 million in newcomer Drugstore.com (Glanz, Washington Times, 7/31). Officials Wednesday acknowledged that regulation would be difficult, since "the bulk of the business is conducted overseas" (New York Times, 7/31).
Among the slew of government officials and corporate executives appearing before Friday's committee was a television news reporter from Kalamazoo, MI, who testified she had been able to purchase Viagra "for a cat, a dead man and a colleague who disclosed to the online pharmacy that he was taking medication that could be fatal if taken with Viagra." WWMT reporter Christine Behrens said, "[W]e filled out the 'on line consultation' on behalf of a cat named Tom," whose "owner honestly filled out Tom's medical history. ... We indicated that his weight was 15 pounds and his height 6 inches ... [and] typed in [that he] was 'neutered.' Tom's 10 pills of 100 milligrams of Viagra were shipped after a charge of $167 was made to a family credit card" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/31).