US major source of Internet drug sales

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reported that there has been an increase in dealers using cyberspace to market narcotics and mind-altering drugs illegal in most countries. Its annual report says Internet pharmacies are shipping prescription-only drugs across the globe.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reported that there has been an increase in dealers using cyberspace to market narcotics and mind-altering drugs illegal in most countries. Its annual report says Internet pharmacies are shipping prescription-only drugs across the globe.

Chy Chuawiwat, managing director of Clearswift Asia Pacific, says that in January 2004, 43 percent of spam filtered by Clearswift for its 20 million users worldwide were peddling weight loss pills and Viagra.

"This has been a consistent upward trend. The lack of regulatory control over Internet sales has opened the door to substandard, adulterated or placebo drugs, many originating from US, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. This kind of spam must be paying off for spammers. As more people buy drugs on the Internet, regulation of the pharmaceutical industry will become more difficult," he said.

Chuawiwat says there have been talks between governments and agencies in different countries on how to handle cross nations problems but no solid solution has been found because of the complexity of the problem.

Drugs most commonly sold online include Viagra, diet pills, Prozac, valium and Xanax. And in the UK, there is a huge threat of ecstasy being sold online spilling across the continents.

"If BBC bothered to report about this, then it must mean that the problem is getting bigger, and it has been growing bigger for the past five months," adds Chuawiwat.

"Regular spams are just annoying but the selling of drugs and prescription-only medicines have much more consequences and side effects. The problem is that it is so hard to prosecute the sources of these spams and the fact that different countries have different laws makes it more difficult," he said.

The INCB report said drug traffickers are targeting middle-class citizens with high-purity heroin that they can smoke rather than inject. Chuawiwat urges the users not to click on drug related spams and ignore these types of e-mails. The INCB is calling on governments to "ensure that adequate penalties be attributed" to people caught trafficking controlled drugs on the Internet.

In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed a case against only one person allegedly supplying contraceptive pills over the Internet without prescription. David Hughes also allegedly made comments on his Web site Crowded Planet which indicated that he had ACCC approval to do so. The court found that Hughes had supplied the contraceptives in Australia in breach of the Trade Practices Act and ordered that this supply only be allowed under certain conditions. The court also ordered that Hughes be restrained from selling to people in the US. The ACCC alleges the conditions have not been complied with and that Hughes is in contempt of court. A hearing is scheduled for April 2004.