U.S. consumers may wonder if they are breaking the law when purchasing prescription drugs from the internet without a prescription for delivery to or within the U.S. The language of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDA) which governs non-controlled substances (therapeutic goods) burdens U.S. pharmacists and physicians with compliance but by its silence concerning the end user exonerates the consumer. Dispensing non-controlled substances without a prescription is called “misbranding” which is a punishable offence for a U.S. pharmacist. However it is not a violation for consumers to buy non-controlled substances without a prescription.
Therapeutic goods in the United States comprise most medications and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which makes some drugs available over the counter at retail outlets and others by prescription only. The intent of the FDA is to require a valid prescription for therapeutic goods classified as prescription only. However there is a huge grey area for legitimiztion of online pharmacies because of their FDA manufacturing compliance as well as the excessive cost of therapeutic goods for uninsured, under insured and seniors on low income. Several state have programs legalizing online non prescription pharmacies. Therapeutic goods imported from Canada are allowed if they meet certain FDA conditions. Learn more
Offshore non prescription pharmacies answer the question: “Is it legal to purchase online with out a prescription”. Their answer: “Yes, because generic product is shipped from different countries, and depending on the medication, laws in that country do not require that you have a prescription”. This response is a true reflection of FDA policy. The FDA defers to the country of origin regarding dispensing regulations and credentialing of pharmacists or suppliers. In other words the FDA has no interest in prosecuting the overseas supplier or the U.S. consumer.
Non-controlled substances (therapeutic goods) comprise most of the medications used to treat common diseases including: ED products, certain weight loss produces, antidepressants and antibiotics. These are considered to have a low potential for abuse or dependency. The FDA regulates and enforces non controlled substances.
Controlled substances are categorized, evaluated and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The uses of these substances have a high potential for abuse and dependency. Some of these substances are staples in the medical community and some are illegal street drugs. Examples of illegal street drugs are Heron, Ecstasy, and Peyote. Examples of medically recognized products are Vicodin, Codeine and Morphine.
The 1970 Controlled Substance Act (CSA) was enacted into law by the Congress of the United States as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. This act only addressed controlled substances.
In April 2009 the Ryan Haight Pharmacy Protection Act an amendment to the CSA which targeted internet sales of controlled substances was enacted into law. While this amendment applies to controlled substances the conceptual implication could be applied to non-controlled substance. However the language again excluded the consumer as a culpable party in any illegal sales from the internet.
Ryan Haight provides additional clarification of the the term “valid prescription”. This is important for internet sales of controlled substances however therapeutic goods fall outside this legislation. The lawyers see this as a huge vote in favor of online and overseas pharmacies. Their interpretation leaves the door open to legal wrangling. But the larger implication is this was deliberate to allow non-prescription offshore therapeutic goods a clear path to the U.S. consumer.