A pharmacist from Florida and a website operator from the Bahamas were indicted last month for their roles in an illegal online pharmacy. The two suspects worked together and with legitimate pharmacies around the nation to dispense prescription medications without proper prescriptions. At least one pharmacy used by the suspects to facilitate their operation was located in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. Robert Niczyporowicz, acting special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office of the Drug Enforcement Administration described the online pharmacy as a circumvention of medical professionals, as the pharmacies customers would often seek prescription medication which their own doctors would not prescribe; the majority of prescriptions sold on the website were for Phendimetrazine and Phentermine, which are weight loss drugs that are illegal in the United States without prescription. Viagra and Cialis were also found to be popular sales on the website.
The two suspects were indicted under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, passed into law in 2008 following the death of Ryan Haight, an eighteen year old that overdosed on prescription Vicodin he ordered without a valid prescription, online. The Act requires websites to obtain a valid prescription from the consumer, prior to dispensing prescription medication. Prior to the Act’s passage, many online pharmacies would only require the consumer to fill-out an online questionnaire; the website in question continued to dispense prescriptions based off of such a questionnaire. The Act now defines a valid prescription as a prescription that is issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice, issued by a practitioner who has conducted at least one in-person examination of the patient seeking the prescription.
The Act also requires all online pharmacies to register with the Drug Enforcement Agency. The website must also report to the Attorney General’s office as to what prescriptions and the amount of same the website offers and dispenses. All online pharmacies are now required to obtain licensure from the states in which they operate, and must comply with all state laws regarding the dispensing of prescriptions. Websites must clearly display the states in which they are licensed, the pharmacies contact information as registered with the DEA, the pharmacist-in-charge’s information and a certification that the pharmacy is licensed to practice.
Finally, the Act increases the penalties associated with violations of laws regarding the illegal dispensing of pharmaceuticals. Depending on the severity of the offense, the Act calls for fines up to $5 million and imprisonment of up to 30 years for violations of the Act.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with a violation involving an online pharmacy, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. You may contact Marc Neff to schedule a confidential consultation at (215) 563-9800 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.