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New CASA* Report Finds: Most Web Sites Selling Prescription Opioids, Stimulants and Depressants Require No Prescription

July 9, 2008

Despite a decline in the number of Web sites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs, like OxyContin and Valium, Xanax and Vicodin, and Ritalin and Adderall, in the past year, 85 percent of Web sites selling such drugs do not require a prescription, according to “‘You’ve Got Drugs!’ V: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet,” the fifth annual White Paper on this subject released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

The new White Paper reports that CASA researchers found a total of 365 Web sites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs during 210 hours of research in the first quarter of 2008, compared to 581 sites during the same period in 2007. Only two of the 365 sites were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites(TM), the same number found certified in 2007.

The CASA report identified an emerging practice of Internet sites selling prescriptions for controlled drugs that can be filled at local pharmacies. The report also found sites selling online “medical consultations” which enable Internet users to get controlled drugs online without a proper prescription.

“This decline in the number of Web sites advertising or selling controlled prescription drugs may reflect efforts of federal and state agencies and financial institutions to crack down on Internet drug trafficking. Nevertheless, in spite of those efforts, anyone of any age can obtain dangerous and addictive prescription drugs with the click of a mouse,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “This problem is not going away. It is morphing into different outlets for controlled prescription drug trafficking like Internet script mills and membership sites that sell lists of online pharmacies, and different payment methods like eChecks, COD and money orders.”

Of those sites not requiring prescriptions, 42 percent explicitly stated that no prescription was needed, 45 percent offered an “online consultation,” and 13 percent made no mention of a prescription.

Other notable findings:

 --  Of the few sites that require prescriptions, half permit the     prescription to be faxed, allowing significant opportunity for fraud. --  Benzodiazepines (like Xanax and Valium) continue to be the most     frequently offered drugs for sale with 90 percent of sites selling them;     followed by opioids (like Vicodin and OxyContin) at 57 percent of sites,     and stimulants (like Ritalin and Adderall) at 27 percent of sites. --  According to DEA estimates, in 2007 eleven percent of prescriptions     filled by traditional pharmacies were for controlled substances compared to     80 percent of prescriptions filled by Internet pharmacies. --  There are no controls blocking access to these sites by children and     teens.      

Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), held hearings on “The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008″ to control Internet trafficking of controlled prescription drugs which was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). The Senate passed the bill in April of 2008. The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the topic last month.

“We congratulate the Senate, and urge the House to take prompt action and the President to sign the bill into law,” said Califano. “Further delays cannot be justified since these rogue Internet sites put a drug dealer in any home or college dorm room with a computer or laptop.”

Califano also applauded federal and state actions to reduce trafficking and MasterCard, Visa, American Express and PayPal for their efforts to shut down illegal access to these drugs using their payment mechanisms.

The CASA report includes recommendations that:

 --  Internet search engines block all advertisements for controlled     prescription drugs that do not come from licensed and certified online     pharmacies. --  The U.S. negotiate treaties with foreign governments to help shut down     Internet trafficking of controlled prescription drugs.      

CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA has issued 68 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 219 sites in 85 cities and counties in 33 states plus Washington, DC and two Native American tribal reservations, and has been evaluating the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment in a variety of programs and drug courts. CASA is the creator of the nationwide initiative “Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children(TM)” — the fourth Monday in September — the 22nd in 2008 — that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children’s risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs. In May of 2007, CASA Chairman Joseph A. Califano, Jr. called for a fundamental shift in the nation’s attitude about substance abuse and addiction with the publication of his book, “HIGH SOCIETY: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It.” For more information visit www.casacolumbia.org.

*The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as “CASA”) or any of its member organizations, or any other organizations with the name of “CASA.”

 Contacts: Lauren Duran 212-841-5260 lduran@casacolumbia.org  Sulaiman Beg 212-841-5213 sbeg@casacolumbia.org

SOURCE: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University




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