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Last month a federal grand jury indicted 18 people on charges stemming from fraud to racketeering over their participation in an international online pharmaceutical sales ring. The company’s name was Affpower, and by the time the federal government had shut the sales operation down, Affpower had moved over $126 million in illegally prescribed pharmaceuticals.

The arrests haven’t managed to stem the flow of illegal pharmaceuticals from pushers online because of the internet’s versatility. Essentially, these online operations are pharmacies with a few doctors signing off on health questionnaires that people have filled out over the internet as to their condition and need for medication.

Online buyers ostensibly pay for prescription drugs at a much higher rate than they would in a conventional pharmacy because no traditional doctor visit is required. In truth, the real reason that pharmaceuticals are so expensive online is because of the added advantage to some buyers, namely addicts, of skirting regulatory agencies.

Online buyers also run the risk of purchasing counterfeit drugs because of the lack of regulatory agencies’ oversight. According to a Reuters article today, this has lead to a woman’s death after a counterfeit treatment for anemia, deaths in Cambodia because of counterfeit malaria drugs, and children in Haiti and India killed by acetaminophen made with antifreeze.

Policing these unregulated online pharmacies proves very difficult for the FDA, which is already strapped for funds and spread very thin.

For more information on this subject matter, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.

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