Although law enforcement is active in combating cybercrime related to illicit Internet pharmacies, evolving digital technologies have created a complex online environment that now includes these illegal pharmacies, as well as online facilitators, advertising sites and foreign entities. Collectively, these networks create significant patient safety risks, including acting as unregulated access points encouraging prescription drug abuse.

There are several difficulties in prosecuting individuals involved in illegal online prescription drug distribution due to the multijurisdictional and multinational nature of the businesses. Professor Tim Mackey, director of the Global Health Policy Institute and CaseyGerry attorney Camille Guerra conducted a comprehensive legal review and analysis of US civil and criminal cases associated with online pharmacies. This was accomplished by reviewing legal documents/filings available via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) database, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s website, and structured search queries using the Google search engine.

Through extensive research, they found more than 100 cases, including criminal indictments, sentencing documents, judgments, forfeiture orders, civil complaints, and restitution documents. Their work revealed that current legal tools and regulatory policies do not effectively deter this highly profitable criminal activity.

The solution lies in more robust legal remedies and criminal penalties, and greater legal and policy coherence at the domestic, regional, and global level – all aimed at improving patient safety and ensuring the integrity of the drug supply chain. Read here for the complete article in Med Access @ Point Care, co-authored by Guerra and Mackey.

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