By:  LINDSEY O'NEILL, ESQ.

Believe me, I know how much pain medication can help when you’ve been injured.  Being able to obtain your prescription over the Internet through an online pharmacy can not only come in pretty darn handy, but undoubtedly makes valuable medications accessible to those who ordinarily are not able to physically go to a neighborhood pharmacy.  The problem, though, is that some of these online pharmacies are legitimate (and legal)… and some are not.

On the illegal side, cyber-criminals use the Internet to set up phony online pharmacies and illegally distribute controlled substances.  Typically, these illegal pharmacies don’t sell a variety of prescription drugs, but rather almost exclusively sell controlled substances like hydrocodone – the generic drug for Vicodin.   The target consumer isn’t the little old lady in need of her blood pressure medication.  Rather – these companies are out for profit through illegally distributing addictive narcotics.

Such illegal operations inevitably lead to tragedy.  Take the case of Ryan Haight.  Ryan Thomas Haight  purchased narcotics over the internet.  He had never seen the medical doctor on the Internet who prescribed him the drugs, nor had he visited the Internet pharmacy that mailed him the drugs.  A few months after ordering those drugs, Ryan Haight overdosed and died on February 12, 2001.  He was only 17 when he purchased them… and just barely 18 when he died.

According to the US Department of Justice website, a lot of people don’t realize that many of the drugs you can buy on the Internet are counterfeit and often are manufactured in other countries. Some of the prescription drugs are apparently even heroin-based so buyers become addicted to them and continue to purchase more.

After years of lobbying Congress for stricter laws, we now have the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, which goes into effect Monday, April 13. These regulations apply to the sale of controlled substances, not other medications, and are intended to prevent the illegal diversion of controlled substances.   The regulations are not intended to hamper legitimate online pharmacies, but to crack down on the illegal ones.   The statute adds several new provisions to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) including:

• New definitions, such as “online pharmacy” and “deliver, distribute, or dispense by means of the Internet”;
• A requirement of at least one face-to-face patient medical evaluation prior to issuance of a controlled substance prescription;
• Registration requirements for online pharmacies;
• Internet pharmacy website disclosure information requirements; and
• Prescription reporting requirements for online pharmacies.

If you've suffered an injury after taking a drug you ordered online, or if you have more questions about this matter don't hestitate to contact an attorney.  The doctor who prescribed those drugs to Ryan Haight was held liable in court to the family for his participation in the illegal online pharmacy.  Contact an attorney in your are to learn more about your legal rights and the laws that protect you.

For more information, you can read the DEA Press Release.

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