ONLINE Rx: FDA, Justice Dept. Blasted for Lack of Action
House Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee members blasted the Clinton administration for "slow action" after declaring a war on illegal online prescription drug sales, the CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Commerce Chair Tom Bliley (R-Va.) said: "While the president has talked a big game about Internet pharmacies, not one arrest or conviction related to Internet prescription drug sales has taken place since this subcommittee last met on this issue almost one year ago." Oversight and investigations subcommittee ranking member Rep. Ron Klink (D-Pa.) added: "We've all heard about the stories of people being able to obtain drugs online when posing as cats, dogs, dead people, young children or as patients with contra-indicated conditions. What we don't hear is how the federal government is aggressively attacking this problem." Justice Department and FDA officials countered that "investigating Internet crimes is difficult and time consuming." The FDA has taken civil action against 50 Web sites, and 132 criminal investigations are underway that have resulted in 43 arrests and 22 convictions, according to William Hubbard of the FDA. Deputy Associate Attorney General Ethan Posner added that within the past few months, the Justice Department has filed 10 cases on Internet drug sales, with two convictions and five other indictments. Hubbard and Posner did admit that there was a dearth of action on illegal sale of legal medications and overseas drug sales. Bliley and oversight and investigations subcommittee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said they would soon introduce legislation that would allow state attorneys general to seek nationwide injunctions against Internet sites (Rovner, 5/26).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.