President Bush will soon sign legislation that prohibits Internet pharmacies from dispensing controlled substances such as Ritalin and OxyContin (pictured) to just about anyone, whether or not they’ve seen a physician or have a prescription.
The law requires that US-based online pharmacies make sure prospective customers have a valid prescription and have been examined by a physician before filling an order. Mainstream online pharmacies like drugstore.com and the web sites of CVS Caremark and Walgreen’s already do this.
These days, prescription drug abuse rivals illegal drug abuse as a public health issue. In the US, 15.8 million people reported abusing a controlled substance in 2006, including 2.2 million teenagers. That number has doubled since 1992, and it exceeds the total number of people who use cocaine, heroin, inhalants and hallucinogens combined.
The bill has its problems. It does not crack down on offshore pharmacies nor does it cover non-controlled substances with high abuse potential such as Soma, a muscle relaxant. The bill also fails to pressure search engines, mail delivery businesses and credit-card companies that enable the rogue pharmacies.