Senator Collins Calls for Greater Protections to Ensure That Prescription Drugs Purchased Over the Internet Are Safe

WASHINGTON, DC — The Governmental Affairs Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations today held a hearing to examine the dangers of prescription drugs purchased through rogue Internet sites. Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the full Committee, called for greater oversight to ensure that only safe, unadulterated drugs are available for sale over Internet sites. Senator Collins is an original cosponsor of a bill that would allow Americans to reimport less expensive drugs from Canada and other countries and would crack down on rogue online pharmacies that currently are unregulated by the federal government.

Speaking at the Subcommittee hearing, Senator Collins explained that in the pursuit for affordable prescription drugs, some Americans are turning to the Internet. However, the proliferation of Internet pharmacies has also resulted in an increased number of rogue pharmacies that sell counterfeit or adulterated drugs that endanger the health of consumers. In addition, many online pharmacies do not require a prescription.

“The growth of the Internet in recent years has created many new opportunities for consumers to shop on-line for health-related products, information and services. The Internet offers many advantages for on-line shoppers, particularly individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and patients living in remote areas. But while online drug sales by reputable pharmacies have advantages, we learned today that not all online pharmacies are reputable. And those that are not can pose serious dangers to unsuspecting consumers,” said Senator Collins.

Senator Collins pointed out that recent surveys found that more than 90 percent of on-line sites do not require a prescription. In addition, despite the rapid increase in the number of Internet pharmacies, there are few protections to educate consumers about which vendors are legitimate.

According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), the number of online pharmacies has increased dramatically from 190 in October of 2000 to an estimated 1,400 sites in April of 2004.

Senator Collins is an original cosponsor of the Safe IMPORT Act which, in addition to allowing Americans to reimport safe, lower cost drugs from Canada and other nations, would crack down on rogue Internet pharmacies by establishing federal licensing requirements for all Internet pharmacies that conduct or solicit business in the United States. The legislation is scheduled to be considered next week by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.

The hearing was chaired by Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN).

“I believe we must do all we can to make prescription drugs more affordable, but we must also do what we can to ensure patient safety. I commend Senator Coleman for raising these important issues,” added Senator Collins.