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Congress targets ‘fake pharmacies’ spreading dangerous drugs online

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 11:55 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Fake online Pharmacies are partly to blame for the spread of deadly drugs in our country, that’s according to lawmakers and whistleblowers.

But cracking-down on these Fake Pharmacies can be very difficult. That’s because drug enforcement agents say as soon as they shut one site down, three more pop up. They say these “digital drug dealers” mainly use social media to sell counterfeit pills.

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 95% of the 35,000 pharmacies online are operating illegally. Lawmakers and whistle-blowers say these suppliers target young people on social media apps, such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. People close to the issue say they often sell counterfeit pills, laced with the deadly drug fentanyl. It’s a problem echoed by DEA agents WTOC interviewed in January.

So, how did these illegal sales get so out of control?

“That is the question I’m asked most often, is, “how can that be? Isn’t somebody regulating the internet?” said Libby Baney, a senior advisor for the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global).

Baney says there are rules at the state and federal level against these online sales.

“The problem is, illegal online drug sellers aren’t following the rules,” Baney said. “And often they aren’t following the rules because they’re operating from a foreign country, and using our internet ecosystem, our infrastructure, our postal service, and coming through our borders to sell these dangerous drugs to Americans.”

Longtime pharmacist turned Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter said it’s time for Congress to act.

“They are criminals,” Rep. Carter said. “And they should be arrested.”

Rep. Carter said he’s backing the bipartisan “DRUGS” act, which stand for the Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers. If passed, the act would require facilitators shut-down web sites that illegally offer medications.

Rep. Carter is also critical of social media giants. Right now, federal law shields companies like Facebook from any responsibility for what people post - or sell - through their platforms.

“They’ve got to be more responsible,” Rep. Carter said. “These social platforms simply cannot continue to ignore what’s going on, on their platforms... and they’ve been doing that.”

Rep. Carter has advice for anyone looking to buy medication online.

“I mean, look... when it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true,” he said.

Baney, a parent herself, said parents should be on high-alert. “Know what your kids are doing on social media,” Baney said.

To look at the DRUGS act for yourself, click here.

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