Statistics show that more people are now doing their shopping on the Internet. However, it’s not just presents and clothes that people are buying online – many people are using the Internet to shop for drugs.
Every year that goes by, more and more people are realizing the benefit of shopping online. No long lines, better selections, and the ease of buying from their couch in their pajamas is very appealing to many. As Internet companies can compete with store prices and offer great deals on shipping, many shoppers, especially around Christmas, use this tool to complete their shopping.
Prescription Drugs Online
You can buy anything on the Internet these days. Unfortunately, this statement is true – you can buy anything on the Internet, including drugs. As our society becomes more computer savvy and people of all ages and backgrounds become familiar with surfing the web, it puts some undesirable things right at people’s fingertips.
Prescription drug abuse now exceeds abuse of all other illegal drugs, except marijuana, combined. More people die from prescription drug overdose than from car accidents. (1) Yet people can quickly and easily obtain drugs without a prescription from many online pharmacies.
A new commentary in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week seeks to educate people, especially doctors, about the risk of online pharmacies. “The Internet serves as an open channel for distribution of controlled prescription drugs with no mechanisms to even block sales to children. This is particularly dangerous given that addiction is a disease that, in most cases, originates with substance use in adolescence,” said Susan Foster, M.S.W., of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, who contributed to the commentary. (1)
Regulating Online Pharmacies
The federal government has tried to regulate these pharmacies, but there is much work still to be done. FDA warning letters go out to the pharmacies and the service providers that can be found, but there is no evidence that this type of contact is doing anything to deter them from selling drugs illegally. The difficulty with regulating these online pharmacies is that they usually have no real physical location in the United States, and they are able to quickly disappear, change names, and appear again online in a matter of days.
Screenings by Physicians
It would take a combined effort by federal, state, and local authorities to find and regulate these online pharmacies, a task that would be costly and time consuming. The authors of this week’s commentary put much of the responsibility to screen for drug abuse on physicians. “Physicians need to educate patients about the risks of purchasing any medications over the Internet and should consider brief but routine questioning about Internet-based medication use,” said Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the article. “Given the ability of illegal online pharmacies to evade law enforcement efforts, physician awareness and involvement will be crucial to reducing this problem.”(1)