Senate Pushes Web Pharmacy Regulations

    May 17, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

There’s most likely a balance between no regulation and too much regulation, and the current Democratic Congress is walking that line. No one would doubt the potential harm caused by "rogue" Web-dealers, but Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) tightening grip on Internet service providers should at least cause one to step back a bit to look at it.

Leahy heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is throwing support behind polarizing Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as they move to make it harder for people to buy bogus or controlled pharmaceuticals online.

On the surface, Online Consumer Protection Act sounds noble enough – it would require online pharmacies to publicly comply with state and federal licensing requirements and fill only those medications prescribed by doctors who have personally examined the patient.

Certainly, prescriptions meds are far too easy to get online. People have been hurt and killed by bad drugs and there has been pressure put on directories and search engines to tighten their requirements for pharmaceutical ads. Something needs to tighten somewhere.

But where this bill oversteps the balance is that it institutes another level of government control over ISPs by requiring they block sites they suspect of advertising or selling illegal pharmaceuticals.

While regulation is often necessary, this nipping at the heels of the DoJ’s Big Brother behavior and Congress’ general lack of common sense when it comes to the Web (Internet gambling and the series of tubes, anyone?), the extent to which the government seeks control is, at least a little, alarming.

CNet’s Anne Broache notes that the bill’s main critics come from, quite surprisingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration (interesting they have time to protest given how busy they are winning the War on Drugs). The DEA says policing pharmaceuticals on the Web is their job, given to them via the Controlled Substances Act.

That the hand of noble causes often devolves into an unnecessary iron fist is beside the point. Ratcheting up control at every opportunity is a scary thought – it’s the type of thing that makes online poker illegal but horse race gambling and lotteries not.

If we are to regulate the Internet (and to be clear, some regulation is necessary), let’s use regulation sparingly.