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ABC7 online drug report spurs investigation

May 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The California State Board of Pharmacy launches a probe of people accused of illegally selling prescription drugs online after the cases were exposed in an Eyewitness News investigation.

This week an Eyewitness News investigation uncovered Craigslist.org users illegally selling prescription medicines and in some cases, illegal drugs. Now the head of the California State Board of Pharmacy is looking into the findings. Health officials say there's a right way and a wrong way to safely buy medications online.

Buying prescription drugs without going to a licensed pharmacy comes with risks.

A three-month investigation reveals many consumers are taking unnecessary risks, whether they're buying drugs on Craigslist or directly from unlicensed pharmacy sites.

Because posting items for sale on Craigslist is free and is largely unmonitored, authorities say it's nearly impossible to stop people from selling illegal items like drugs.

Virginia Herold, executive officer of the California State Board of Pharmacy, watched ABC7's report and was alarmed by what she saw.

"It's unfortunate that Craigslist is now being used as a means to connect people that shouldn't be selling drugs with people that are interested in purchasing drugs," said Herold.

As a result of our investigation, the Pharmacy Board is now looking further into two cases, including one pharmacy technician accused of stealing medications from a West Hollywood drugstore.

"Some of the things we will do based on your story is you've indicated that we've had two of our licensees suffer large drug losses, those will be investigations for us," said Herold.

This week, the Pharmacy Board launched a new campaign about the dangers of buying prescriptions over the Internet.

The Board says 95 percent of all online pharmacy sites are not operating within the law and are not licensed by the state, and that these websites may be putting consumers at risk.

Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT) is a task force that includes the Los Angeles County Sheriff's and Health Services departments.

On an undercover prescription drug sting, members of HALT said buying medications online, especially without a doctor's prescription, is risky.

"This stuff may be counterfeit. Who knows where it's coming from? A lot of the stuff comes out of other countries -- Russia, China, India -- and people don't really know what they are getting," said Erick Aguilar, an L.A. County deputy health officer.

If you're buying prescriptions online, look for websites with a VIPPS seal (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites), which certifies the pharmacy is properly licensed and meets stringent requirements.

"When you go to back alleys, when you go behind bushes to purchase drugs, you're buying it from a criminal," said Aguilar.

And that makes you a criminal as well.

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