Illegal online pharmacies scrutinized in North Dakota

March 1, 2009

North Dakota's attorney general wants to authorize state and local officials to prosecute online pharmacies trafficking in illegal painkiller prescriptions.

Key Points

Alarmed by the increasing number of people addicted to prescription pain killers, North Dakota's attorney general has proposed a state law to crack down on online pharmacies dispensing drugs illegally.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's bill would give local and state officials authority to prosecute such cases even if the federal government does not. Minnesota has a similar law, named for Justin Pearson of St. Cloud, who overdosed on a prescription painkiller obtained through an online pharmacy. Pearson got a prescription for the painkiller without seeing a physician.

A state legislative committee held a hearing on the bill and recommended it be adopted by the full legislature. Stenehjem said the rogue pharmacies have business arrangements with physicians who write prescriptions for patients who fill out online questionnaires. He cited a news interview with one such doctor, whose database included more than 32,000 "patients," none of whom he had seen in person.