Sen. Charles Schumer said a group created two years ago to make it tougher for illicit online pharmacies to market, sell and ship pills without a prescription isn't doing enough to help crack down on a growing industry, a criticism the organization's executive director said is unfounded.
In a letter to the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, which consists of a dozen private companies, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the nonprofit hasn't established a clearinghouse for members to share information about rogue operators.
Discussions to create such a central location began last July, he said. "However, I have not seen much progress since that time," Schumer said in the letter.
Marjorie Clifton, the center's executive director, said the group created a data-sharing portal a year ago, allowing members who identified a rogue online pharmacy to share that knowledge with other members.
For instance, she said, when Visa identified an online pharmacy merchant as a rouge operator, the business' name and website were entered into the portal and the information was made available to other members, including American Express, Google and Go Daddy.
A 2008 study by the Drug Enforcement Administration found 85 percent of online pharmacies do not require a prescription and 95 percent of all prescription drug sales made through the Internet are for controlled substances such as oxycodone.
Schumer also expressed concerns that the group isn't doing enough to help law enforcement agencies shut down these illegitimate websites.
However, in November 2012, Clifton said the group partnered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Interpol and other law enforcement agencies in Operation Pangea V, which closed 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites and seized $10.5 million worth of illegal drugs worldwide. In addition, Clifton said, advertisements for illegal prescription drugs on member sites, such as Google and Bing, have declined significantly since 2010.
"Google alone has removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies and has made thousands of referrals to law enforcement about rogue pharmacies since 2011," the center said.
The center has not compiled the list of trustworthy sites Schumer wants because the group has no authority to certify that a website can sell pharmaceutical products, Clifton said. However, consumers can check to see whether an online merchant is legal through a service provided by the group's partner, LegitScript, an Internet pharmacy verification service approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.