Mom, Schumer urge Web pharmacy crackdown

Senator Charles Schumer and Joni Kovacs, who lost

Senator Charles Schumer and Joni Kovacs, who lost her son to a prescription drug overdose, called for a crackdown on sites illegally selling prescription drugs. (July 11, 2011) (Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

Every few weeks, Joni Kovacs-Howe leaves a message on the Facebook memorial for her son, Steven Kovacs. The notes of love and regret are one way she remembers the 22-year-old aspiring psychologist, who died of a prescription drug overdose on July 8, 2009.

Crusading against online pharmacies like those that sold Steven the drugs -- even after his prescription lapsed -- is another. "It's ridiculous how easy it is," the Jericho mother said of making such Web purchases.

Sunday, she joined Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) as he called for a crackdown on sites illegally selling prescription drugs. He asked federal authorities for stricter enforcement, and credit card companies to block payment to such sites.

Since last month's Medford pharmacy robbery in which four people were shot dead by a man authorities said was trying to steal prescription drugs, Schumer also has requested harsher penalties for controlled-substance theft and more prescription oversight. "We cannot just address one component and expect it to go away," he said.

As many as 1,000 sites offer the drugs without prescriptions.

Steven Kovacs looked online after first being prescribed Adderall, used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Xanax, used to treat anxiety, as study aids while at Binghamton University.

The Jericho native majored in psychology and graduated with honors. He'd enrolled in a doctorate program. But he'd also become addicted. Shortly before fatally mixing the two drugs with painkiller OxyContin at a friend's upstate home, he told family he was ready for help. "This was a very bright young man," said Kovacs-Howe. "Everything is tied to a doctor writing these prescriptions in the first place."

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