For the past several years, both Canadian and American authorities have been plagued with the problem of illegal online pharmacies. Although there are legitimate places to purchase prescriptions online, the black market supports hundreds of corrupt businesses that merely pose as pharmacies, luring patients with sophisticated web sites and empty guarantees.
This past May, the FDA collaborated with law enforcement, customs and regulatory authorities from 111 other countries to intercept packages containing illegal prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical testing revealed many of these to contain toxins and potentially lethal ingredients. Ultimately, the investigators seized over 500 packages and identified more than 1,900 websites that participated in the drugs’ unauthorized sale and transport.
Cracking Down On Drug Delivery
Unable to effectively stamp out the online pharmacies that supply fake prescriptions, the FDA has set its sights on the companies who deliver them. On July 17, FedEx – operator of the world’s largest cargo airline – was indicted for delivering prescription pain pills, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs and other controlled substances for illegal Internet pharmacies. The charges focus on FedEx’s delivery of drugs to corrupt pharmacies who supply pills to customers who filled out an online questionnaire, but never saw a doctor – a practice that violates federal and state drug laws. The FDA says FedEx knew what it was doing, and must be held responsible.
FedEx Claims No Responsibility
The trafficking of unregulated prescription drugs destroys any possibility of pharmaceutical quality assurance – patients have no way of verifying the legitimacy of the drugs they purchase. But FedEx says they can’t be held responsible for the contents of the packages they ship. To open and inspect shipments would breach the trust placed in them by consumers – a foundational element of their business model.
FDA Points To Suspicious Deliveries
U.S. authorities maintain that FedEx knew it was transporting illegal drugs. The delivery company’s management staff had received numerous reports from couriers dispatched to suspicious locations like vacant homes and parking lots. Also, dating back as far as 2000, the FDA claims that FedEx continued to do business with an internet pharmacy whose manager had been charged with violating drug laws. The indictment is part of a government initiative to widen the net when it comes to prosecuting the distribution of counterfeit and controlled substances. In an effort to better safeguard quality assurance and quality control, the FDA is demanding that companies who knowingly enable illegal activities be held responsible for their actions.
Setting A Precedent
Last year, UPS agreed to forfeit $40 million in payments it received from illicit online pharmacies under a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. The company admitted to servicing companies even after learning they were supplying drugs to patients without prescriptions. They’ve since set up a compliance program to prevent customers from using UPS services to ship illegal drugs. If convicted, FedEx may have to pay fines in excess of $800 million.
Do you think transport companies like FedEx should be held responsible for the contents of the packages they ship?