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Law enforcement agencies are teaming up to address the problem of illegal online pharmaceutical sales. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are joining to form a task force called Operation Gray Lord. The task force is meant to aggressively pursue sellers of prescription narcotics, yet they acknowledge the difficulties that lie ahead. The task force will include officials from the Justice department, some local law enforcement agencies, and possibly top Canadian officials.
Contrary to what many Internet users may think, Elizabeth Willis of the DEA commented, "If a prescription is written by a doctor based solely on information from an online questionnaire, it's not valid, so the distribution is illegal." Thus, the task force may target Internet Pharmacies based in the U.S. that have operated by hiring doctors to write prescriptions based on such questionnaires.
Thus far, only those selling the medications have been at risk of prosecution but, regulators are hinting that those who order the drugs may face prosecution. "It's illegal to import narcotics," Mark B. McClellan, the FDA commissioner, said in an interview. "We do have steps in place to intercept such products and to take further legal action"
Many of the target sites are based in countries where the sales are legal. Many of the packages bear fake customs certifications, which makes them especially difficult to track, but those that can be tracked and detected are being seized in Customs as they enter the country. Dr. McClellan stated, "Different kinds of drug imports carry different risks ... As they all come in unidentified packaging, it's difficult to separate one from the other."
Both the FDA and DEA say that, in the case of prescription narcotics, however, they worry that the drugs sold are actually what they claim to be — powerful opiates that can cause dangerous addictions.
"We think the nature of drug abuse in this country is evolving and is moving toward prescription narcotics," said John Taylor, the FDA's chief enforcement official.
With the formation of Operation Gray Lord, the phrase "buyer beware" becomes more relevant and important than ever as regards buying medications online. Not only do buyers run the risk of getting medications that aren't what they ordered and could be hazardous counterfeits, they also now run the risk of arrest.
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