So is Buying Prescription Drugs Online Illegal?

Published: Jun. 2, 2005 at 9:03 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2005 at 7:30 PM CDT
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Wednesday night, 9 News reported on a number of arrests made in the past several days by local law enforcement officers who work with a federal drug task force.  Now we have more information about a problem that is rapidly growing and coming under more and more scrunity.

You can find dozens of Internet pharmacies doing business online. Some ask a few medical questions and then send you what you have ordered. Phentermine, an amphetamine based drug which is very popular as a diet pill, is one of the controlled substances that can be ordered. A number of buyers of this drug and others have been arrested and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

An affidavit of probable cause for one of the arrests did point out the Internet pharmacies and doctors involved are not licensed in Louisiana. Other than that, little effort is being made to determine if what the pharmacies are doing is illegal. And according to prominent local attorney Lewis Unglesby, there may be some question about whether those arrested have violated any law.

Unglesby says, "The drugs are legal, you start with that. They are legal drugs so there's nothing wrong with people possessing the drugs. In the absence of any evidence they are re-selling them or acting like a medical facility or pharmacy and distributing them... then I don't see how they're breaking any law."

There is a lot of debate right now about whether the pharmacies or the buyers are breaking any state or federal laws and, if so, what those laws are. The local office of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Attorney's office are not at this time involved in the arrests that have been made. The arrests are strictly local. That is not to say the federal agencies may not at some point take a much closer look at those so-called Internet or online pharmacies.  And it may be sooner than later.

So what about people who want to legally use these online pharmacies, can they do that?  Yes, they can, but they need to be careful. We would strongly suggest that you get information such as can be found on the DEA Department of Justice website. You can also click on the link above to the Office of Diversion Control which might be a helpful source.

Reporter:  Paul Gates