You’ve Got Drugs! Internet Prescription Drug Pushers 2007 | Center on Addiction

“You've Got Drugs!” IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet

“You've Got Drugs!” IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet

Published: May 2007

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This series of white papers documents the alarming availability of controlled, dangerous, addictive prescription drugs on the Internet. This lack of control threatens the safety of millions of Americans, contributes to prescription drug abuse and demands immediate attention.


The goal of this investigation was to determine the ease of obtaining controlled prescription medications online. Using common Internet search engines, investigators identified, over the course of a 1-week period, websites that were involved in the sale of a list of target controlled prescription drugs, and documented drug availability, prescription requirements and accessibility by children.  


The number of rogue websites that sold controlled prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium, and Ritalin increased over the past year. Sites advertising controlled prescription drugs increased by 135%, from 168 in 2006 to 394 in 2007. Sites selling these drugs increased by 7%, from 174 in 2006 to 187 in 2007. Of the 187 sites that sold controlled prescription drugs this year, only 2 were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesTM.

Although legitimate online pharmacies can provide access to medications for patients who need them, this snapshot of the broad availability of addictive drugs on the Internet revealed a wide-open channel of distribution. This easy availability has enormous implications for public health, particularly the health of children, since research has documented the tight connection between availability of drugs to young people and substance abuse and addiction.


This report makes several recommendations, including the following, to stop the sale of illegal prescription drugs and prevent prescription drug abuse:

  • Congress should clarify federal law to prohibit the sale or purchase of controlled prescription drugs on the Internet without an original copy of a prescription issued by a DEA-certified physician, licensed in the state of purchase and based on a physical examination and evaluation
  • Congress should impose higher penalties for illegal sale to minors
  • Congress should require that, in order to advertise or sell controlled prescription drugs online, the company making the sale be certified as an Internet pharmacy practice site; such certification would identify legitimate online pharmacy practice sites, and clearly identify non-certified cites as illegal—certified sites could obtain a special Web domain name so that users can know immediately whether the site is legitimate
  • The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should develop public service announcements that appear automatically during Internet drug searches to alert consumers to the potential danger and illegality of making online purchases of controlled prescription drugs from non-certified sites.

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