Statement On Passage Of H.R. 6353, The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act Of 2007

Mr. President, I am pleased that the Senate will pass the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 6353 – an important bipartisan bill that would create new tools for Federal law enforcement to prosecute those who illegally sell drugs online, and allow state authorities to shut down rogue online pharmacies even before they get started. 


Last week, the House of Representatives passed this important legislation.  Earlier this year, the Senate passed a version of this bill, and I am glad that today it has once again given its unanimous support to this bill.  I hope that the President will promptly sign this measure into law.


Senator Feinstein has been a leader on this issue, and she and others have shown a strong commitment to combating illicit drug trafficking by online predators.  I also thank Representative Stupak and all of those who worked on this bill in House.  Through their hard work and diligent efforts, we have a strong bipartisan bill that includes important modifications and clarifications that will protect our children, and grandchildren, from purchasing illegal dangerous drugs online.  I hope this bill will help reduce the prevalence of rogue online pharmacies in our society. 


We are a Nation in the midst of a technological revolution.  In the Digital Age, the Internet has provided Americans with better access to convenient and more affordable medicine. Unfortunately, the prevalence of rogue online pharmacies has also made the Internet an increasing source for the sale of dangerous controlled substances without a licensed medical practitioner’s valid prescription.  Online drug traffickers have used evolving tactics to evade detection by law enforcement and circumvent the proper constraints of doctors and pharmacists. 


Last year, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this issue.  We heard compelling testimony from Francine Haight, a mother whose teenage son died from an overdose of painkillers he purchased online from a rogue pharmacy.  We also heard from Joseph Califano, the former Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Both strongly supported legislation to fill a gap in existing law and help protect young people from illicit drugs online. 


Following our hearing, the Internet Drug Advisory Committee held a briefing for the Judiciary Committee on this matter.  We heard from various members of the Internet community on how the private sector may effectively collaborate with the public sector to combat the sales of dangerous drugs online.  These private sector groups will be vital in that effort, and we were happy to receive the benefit of their insights.


I understand full well the growing danger that illegitimate online pharmacies pose to youth.  As the longtime co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, I know that the Internet offers tremendous benefits, but I also understand that dangerous and addictive drugs are often only a click away.  As a former State’s Attorney in Vermont, I will never forget how much successful prosecutions depend on whether the investigators and lawyers charged with protecting the public from crime have the right tools to do so.  That is why we are in urgent need of this bill.  No matter how dedicated we are to solving a problem, if the laws are not clearly and sensibly drafted, no justice will be done. 


This legislation does many important things.  First, the bill requires the Drug Enforcement Administration report to Congress on recommendations to combat the online sale of controlled substances from foreign countries via the Internet and on ways that the private sector can assist in this effort.  A key ingredient in diminishing the impact of rogue websites on American citizens is combating the international aspect of this problem, and strengthening the public-private sector collaboration can help provide a solution. 


Second, the legislation narrows the U.S. Sentencing Commission directive to ensure that the most dangerous prescription drugs abused online are treated more severely than less harmful prescription drugs.  This addition will ensure that the Commission has clear guidance to issue the guidelines necessary to hold those individuals who peddle dangerous prescription drugs to minors online are held accountable.


Third, the bill protects legitimate retail drug chains with online websites for customers seeking refills on prescriptions, by exempting them from the bill’s requirements.  This ensures that the bill does not target legitimate pharmacies that provide Vermonters and other Americans with access to needed medicines, nor does it burden legitimate pharmacies with additional registration and reporting requirements.


I believe this legislation will be even better with these changes.  I am confident that this legislation will strengthen our Nation’s ability to effectively combat online drug trafficking.  It also furthers the goals of drug enforcement and deterrence, while also providing Congress with additional oversight tools.


The administration supports this bill – and that is the right thing to do.  I know that our hard working men and women at the Drug Enforcement Agency need the added tools this bill would offer to assist their efforts to combat rogue online pharmacies.  Even more, our children, and grandchildren, need the safety and security of operating online free from drug dealers seeking to trick them into purchasing dangerous controlled substances.


I urge the President to promptly sign this bill into law.


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