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A NEW BREED OF DRUG PUSHER
Cracking Down on Illegal Internet Pharmacies

12/29/03

Operation InterPharm GraphicWith just a few clicks of your mouse, you could buy Viagra and various medications for insomnia, hair loss, arthritis, and weight reduction. In unlimited quantities, anytime you wanted. Without prescriptions or doctor's visits or medical exams. Just by filling out a quick-and ultimately bogus-online questionnaire.

It was simple and easy, yes. But also totally illegal. And the subject of a massive undercover investigation called Operation Interpharm led by the FBI, FDA, and DEA.

Major Ring Busted. On December 3, a 108-count indictment was unsealed against three companies and ten individuals across the country. Together, they allegedly set up a massive Internet pharmacy ring that used dozens of web sites like www.get-it-on.com to hawk dangerous and addictive drugs without the proper medical supervision required by law. In the process, they dished out millions of dosages and made more than $150 million.

Two Guilty Pleas. Ten days ago, physician Marvin J. Brown and pharmacist Luke Coukos pled guilty in this case. Dr. Brown authorized more than 22,000 prescriptions, yet never met with a single patient, never performed an exam or took a patient history, and didn't check the accuracy of medical information provided. Coukos, who ran a pharmacy in Midlothian, Virginia, dispensed more than 2.5 million pills, yet knew that customer's identities were not being verified and that some customers were buying massive amounts of drugs. Because so many prescriptions were being filled, Coukos often did not even have time to prepare and review them all.

Beware the Newest Drug Pushers. As this operation highlights, drug pushers today are no longer just thugs and misguided youth hawking illegal drugs in abandoned buildings and back alleys. They are doctors and pharmacists and business people setting up illicit Internet pharmacies to sell all manner of controlled substances with no consideration for the safety of the consumer. Like drug dealers on the street, they are breaking the law and endangering the public. Their goal is not to promote health and well-being but to line their own pockets.

Bottom line: If you are buying controlled medications over the Internet, make sure you are dealing with a licensed, certified pharmacy and that you obtain the prescription from a physician you personally know and trust. It is your own health and safety that are on the line.

More links: FBI's Health Care Fraud website | 12/4 press release | Indictment | 12/19 press release