Monday, October 27, 2008

New Federal Online Pharmacy Law

A new federal law will set wide ranging standards governing internet pharmacies that sell illegal controlled substances. Sites selling human growth hormone and steroids will be hardest hit. Internet lawyers have noticed that internet service providers now feel empowered to shut down such internet pharmacies hosted on their servers. Internet hosting companies such as GoDaddy and Register.com are already kicking such online pharmacies off their servers, even though the law was just signed by President Bush and will not go into effect for many months.

The law also requires online pharmacies to register with the DEA, a requirement previously only leveled against brick and mortar pharmacies. As a practical matter, consumers now will need a doctor's prescription in order to purchase drugs online. Also, a person caught violating the new law is subject to 10 years in prison - double the previous penalty for unlawful distribution.

What will the net effect of this be? Like many internet industries that come under regulation of some form, I suspect this law will force most online pharmacies to set up shop abroad, making enforcement impractical and expensive. The better policy from a law enforcement perspective may be to penalize the purchasers of unlawful controlled substances. Internet pharmacies definitely need to retain an experienced internet law firm for guidance on this new statute.

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