Internet Pharmacies:

Adding Disclosure Requirements Would Aid State and Federal Oversight

GAO-01-69: Published: Oct 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 2000.


Janet Heinrich
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Office of Public Affairs
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The first Internet pharmacies began online service in early 1999. Public health officials are concerned about Internet pharmacies that do not adhere to state licensing requirements and standards. Public officials are also concerned about the validity of prescriptions and international drugs that are not approved in the United States being sent by mail. The unique qualities of the Internet pose new challenges for enforcing state pharmacy and medical practice laws because they allow pharmacies and physicians to reach consumers across state and international borders and remain anonymous. Congress is considering legislation to strengthen oversight of Internet pharmacies.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: To help ensure that consumers and state regulators can easily identify the operators of Web sites selling prescription drugs, Congress should amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require that any pharmacy shipping prescription drugs to another state disclose certain information on its Internet site. The information disclosed should include the name, business address, and telephone number of the Internet pharmacy and its principal officers or owners, and the state(s) where the pharmacy is licensed to do business. In addition, where permissible by state law, Internet pharmacies that offer online prescribing services should also disclose the name, business address, and telephone number of each physician providing prescribing services, and the state(s) where the physician is licensed to practice medicine. The Internet Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act and the administration's proposal would require Internet pharmacies to disclose this type of information.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although several Congressional hearings have been held on Internet pharmacies, no legislation has been introduced to address GAO's matters for congressional consideration, and it appears unlikely that any congressional action will take place in the near future.

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