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Government Accountability Office, Internet Pharmacies: Federal Agencies and States Face Challenges Combating Rogue Sites, Particularly Those Abroad (GAO-13-560) (July 8, 2013) (full-text).


The Internet offers consumers a convenient method for purchasing drugs that is sometimes cheaper than buying from traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies. According to a recent FDA survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult U.S. Internet consumers have purchased prescription drugs online. However, many Internet pharmacies are fraudulent enterprises that offer prescription drugs without requiring a prescription and are not appropriately licensed. These rogue Internet pharmacies may sell drugs that are expired, improperly labeled, or are counterfeits of other drugs. A number of federal and state agencies share responsibility for administering and enforcing laws related to Internet pharmacies, including state boards of pharmacy, FDA, DOJ, CBP, and ICE.

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act directed the GAO to report on problems with Internet pharmacies. This report identifies (1) how rogue sites violate federal and state laws, (2) challenges federal agencies face in investigating and prosecuting operators, (3) efforts to combat rogue Internet pharmacies, and (4) efforts to educate consumers about the risks of purchasing prescription drugs online.