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Illegal Pharmacies Attorney

July 9, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Pharmacies Ride the Online Wave

With the explosive growth in e-commerce and online enterprises in the last decade, a multitude of pharmacies have also moved online. While there are many legal pharmacies practicing by the regulations in an ethical manner on the web, it is important to understand that there are many more illegal pharmacies. In actuality, back in 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pursued over a thousand online pharmacies dispensing unapproved prescriptions and medical equipment.

Frequently, these shady enterprises are simply trying to make easy money at the victim’s expense or dispense medications that are counterfeit, expired, or contaminated. In some situations, the illegal pharmacy behaved more similarly to a drug dealer, pushing controlled substances such as opioid painkillers without requiring a prescription.  Some work with unethical physicians to write prescriptions without seeing the patients.

In the event that the FDA, FBI, or other federal agency has commenced action against you or your online pharmacy, you need to consult with an experienced federal defense lawyer to protect your rights and fight to prove your innocence.

The Ryan Haight Act of 2008

In 2001, an 18-year-old man named Ryan Haight passed away from a Vicodin overdose.  He had bought the prescription medication online from an illegal pharmacy. As a result of his case, the US Congress passed the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008. This act dictates that “no controlled substance that is a prescription drug as determined under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act may be delivered, distributed, or dispensed by means of the Internet without a valid prescription.” The act also functions as an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, and any violations of the act could end up in upwards of 20 years behind bars.

To put an end to illegal distribution of controlled substances online, this act layered several provisions that are key for legitimate online pharmacy owners, including:

  • A requirement of at least one face-to-face patient medical evaluation before the issuance of a controlled substance prescription
  • Registration obligations for online pharmacies
  • Website details disclosure agreements
  • Prescription reporting obligations

Legal Online Pharmacies

Because of the numerous regulations for online pharmacies, it is critical for website owners to keep abreast of federal laws. Some of the key aspects of a legal online pharmacy include:

  • The pharmacy is properly licensed in the United States as well as the state in which it is physically sitatied. This information is available from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).
  • The pharmacy is owned by or employs a licensed pharmacist.
  • The pharmacy necessitates a prescription from the customer’s physician (not their own) before the customer can buy a prescription medication.
  • The website displays a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal.

Illegally Selling Prescription Drugs

The rules of the Ryan Haight Act, as well as other federal legislation, requires registration and other procedures for operating a legal pharmacy. As mentioned earlier, operating an illegal pharmacy could result in years of incarceration. It is also important to note that illegally selling prescription medications (not simply counterfeit or expired drugs) could bring in other penalties, such as those associated with drug trafficking or distribution.

Some particular actions involved with illegal online pharmacies are:

  • A person who is not licensed to write prescriptions is selling or giving prescription drugs to another person (21 U.S.C. § 841(a))
  • A person has a valid prescription, but sells or dispenses prescription drugs to somebody else
  • A doctor, physician, or another person makes out prescriptions that are not medically necessary or for an amount of medications greater than what the person actually needs
  • A pharmacist fills prescriptions with the knowledge that they are fake or criminally produced

How a Defense Attorney Can Help

When a person gets charged or becomes the subject of an investigation for illegally selling prescription drugs or running an illegal pharmacy (whether online or otherwise), it is always key to remember that the prosecution carries the burden of proof. Often, to get a conviction against an alleged offender, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly sold or dispensed (or agreed to sell or give) a prescription medication to a person who lacked a valid prescription. Moreover, the prosecution also needs to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly operated the illegal pharmacy without the intention of registering or otherwise legitimizing the online business.

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