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Online pharmacies aid illegal sale of controlled drugs

By Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI, MARCH 2. Internet pharmacies are emerging as the most popular means of illicit sale of pharmaceuticals containing internationally controlled narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The drugs and substances are increasingly being advertised and illegally sold without prescriptions over the net,the annual report of the International Narcotics Control Bureau says.

"Available information indicates that the illicit sale of pharmaceuticals containing controlled narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances via the Internet and the illicit distribution of such substances by mail are global problems, and resolving these problems required urgent action by the international community. Evidence collected by regulatory and law enforcement authorities indicates that several billion doses of controlled substances are illicitly sold each year,'' the report says.

The sale include substances with a high potential of "abuse" such as opioids, stimulants and benzeodiasepines and substances with possibly fatal health risks when consumed without medical supervision, such as fentanyl and secobarbital.

High sale

Investigations by the United States authoritiesshow that thethe total sales of pharmaceuticals accounted for by prescription drug sales is significantly higher than for traditional licensed pharmacies. Investigations in Asian and European countries confirm that around 90 per cent of such sales by the Internet pharmacies are done without prescription. The illicit trade over the Internet has been identified as one of the major sources for prescription medications abused by children and adolescents in countries such as the United States.

A vast majority of the Internet pharmacies fulfil these orders without requiring a valid prescription or without verifying personal details provided by the customer.

Call for consultation

There is no mechanism to block access of children and adolescent to those Internet sites or to prevent illicit supplies from reaching persons in that age group, the report points out. It called for a consultation of concerned regional and international organisations such as Interpol, World Customs Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the Universal Postal Union to deal with the issue.

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