NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2004

American prescription-drug policy is based on two major premises, says Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.): First, for certain medications, consumers need the advice and consent of a licensed expert who is familiar with their case. Second, the manufacture and handling of drugs should be highly regulated to ensure quality and safety.

Internet pharmacies threaten those principles, says Coleman, chairman of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), by making it possible for any individual to purchase virtually any drug without a prescription from anywhere in the world. Manufacturers of these drugs and the Web sites that sell them are often beyond the reach of U.S. regulations, and act accordingly

The findings of a PSI investigation of internet pharmacies are disturbing, says Coleman. For example:

  • John F. Kennedy Airport in New York receives a whopping 40,000 drug packages each day, while some 30,000 pharmaceutical shipments land in Miami and Chicago receives at least 4,300 packages containing drug products every day.
  • U.S. agencies do not have sufficient resources to inspect a significant proportion of this influx, and the vast majority of these packages enter without the type of close government supervision over quality of production and handling that Americans take for granted.

The contents of these shipments are often dangerous.

  • In one inspection at JFK Airport, Customs found that nearly 30 percent of pharmaceutical packages contained controlled substances, the most addictive pharmaceutical drugs in the world.
  • Other examples included the date-rape drug GHB (which had been ordered by teenagers), codeine-laced products, morphine, fake Lipitor, and injectable steroids from China.
  • There were boxes of unidentified drug products and counterfeit Viagra that differed considerably in strength from the labeled dosage.

Ignoring real safety concerns about the drugs we allow to be imported from the vast unregulated Internet pharmacy would be playing "Rx Roulette" with the health of American consumers, says Coleman.

Source: Norm Coleman, "Rx Roulette on the Internet," Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB108742715341339456,00.html


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