Saturday, September 29, 2012

Illegal sales of unauthorized prescriptions online could pose "SOPA-like" questions for websites and services

A story in the news yesterday about “online pharmacies” raises some questions about the ease with which websites are set up (off shore, often), and whether future government attempts to regulate them could pose “SOPA-like” risks to web hosting companies in the future (see especially my Nov. 25, 2011 posting).  Domestic sites that sell counterfeit products can be taken down by Customs (ICE), and there can be questions sometimes about services that host these sites.  Typically, though, when sites are removed, operators set them up offshore elsewhere quickly on other servers.  

The specific story concerns websites that sell prescription drugs while trying to bypass the legally mandated (by both federal and state laws and by some FDA rules) requirements for prescriptions appropriately signed (at least electronically or called in) by physicians who have actually examined the patient (at least remotely, in some cases). 

A typical media account appeared in USA Today Friday, by Linda Johnson (AP), here

 There’s no question that online “pharmacies” have been particularly prone to generate email spam, some of it offensive, leading to a few prosecutions in New York State a few years ago.

There is also a story that the FCC will be tightening up rules on collecting information from minors.  This does not appear to affect websites that merely “publish” without trying to profile customers.  More about this matter will appear on my COPA blog next week.

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