Online drug pushers on the rise

The number of rogue Web sites selling controlled prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium and Ritalin has gone up for the third straight year, according to a report released Wednesday by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

According to the white paper, You've Got Drugs!" IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet, 581 Web sites are advertising or selling prescription drugs in 2007 compared to 342 sites in 2006.

The number of Web sites advertising controlled prescription drugs rose from 168 in 2006 to 394 in 2007, an increase of 135 percent, according to the study. The sites selling these drugs increased 7 percent, from 174 in 2006 to 187 in 2007, according to CASA, and only two of those 187 sites were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, according to the report. The Web sites were found through Internet searches and e-mail advertisements.

"The easy availability of addictive opioids, depressants and stimulants has, for many children, made the Internet a greater threat than the illegal street drug dealer," said Joseph Califano, CASA's chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, in a statement. "The Internet has become a pharmaceutical candy store stocked with addictive drugs, available at the click of a mouse to any kid with a credit card number."

Other findings include:

-- Eighty-four percent of the Web sites selling prescription drugs did not require a prescription.

-- About 16 percent of the sites claimed to require a prescription, but more than half of those ask that it be faxed, making it easier for a customer to forge the prescription or use the same prescription over again.

-- The most frequently offered prescription drugs were Xanax and Valium, followed by Vicodin and OxyContin.

-- There are no controls stopping sale of these drugs to children.

CASA said that although Congress has held hearings and introduced legislation to limit the availability of prescription drugs on the Internet, no action has been taken.

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