July 14th, 2009
11:40 AM ET

Internet drug sales crackdown

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/HEALTH/05/21/online.drugs/art.mail.order.drugs.03.cnn.jpg caption= "These pills were sent to CNN's Drew Griffin, even though he was never seen by a doctor."]

Editor's Note: Four Emmy nominees for Outstanding Investigative Reporting on a Regularly Scheduled Newscast were announced today. CNN's David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffith were nominated for their pieces on online prescription drug abuse.

David Fitzpatrick
Special Investigations Unit Producer

If there was any doubt at all that the sale of prescription drugs over the internet, without a doctor’s legitimate authorization, is very big business, what happened in Kansas over the last couple of days should dispel those notions in a heartbeat.

The Kansas Attorney General’s office arrested and jailed three people, a pharmacist and the co-owners of a small pharmacy in the northwestern part of the state, on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts. Hogan’s Pharmacy is in a tiny town called Lyons. And according to documents filed in court, this small storefront operation, in a town of no more than 3,000 people, handled nearly $1.9 million in wire transfers in 2007 alone.

CNN Correspondent Drew Griffin and I went to Lyons a few months ago as part of an AC 360 investigation into internet prescription abuse. We had met and interviewed a young widow only the day before. Her husband had ordered the muscle-relaxant drug Soma over the internet—time and time again. Many of the pills came from Hogan’s Pharmacy and came without any legitimate order from a physician. One day last year, she went to their bedroom and found her husband unresponsive. He had died of an overdose of Soma.

There’s a good reason why doctors limit doses of Soma. Research by the Food and Drug Administration shows that it is one of those class of drugs which can be easily abused. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there’s now some consideration being given to classifying Soma as a “controlled substance,” putting it in the same category of dangerous drugs such as Xanax and Hydrocodone..

I was sitting in my New York City office when that widow telephoned me to express her thanks to the Kansas authorities and to CNN for the investigative work. She told me she would likely testify in any coming trials and was looking forward to doing so.

Keeping them honest, we’ll continue to investigate prescription drug sales over the Internet.

Attorney General Steve Six announced charges today against Hogan’s Pharmacy owners Jolane and Mark Poindexter for their part in an Internet pharmacy scheme. The pharmacist in charge, Rick Kloxin, was charged earlier this week.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. GF, Los Angeles

    It's ironic, the battle on drugs now involves legal drugs. I'd like to know why the pharmaceutical industry gets away with churning out so many unnecessary and addicting drugs.

    August 22, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  2. deborah, OH

    Thank you for the posting, David & Drew (you have been busy?).
    Please continue to 'keep them honest' in this ongoing battle for 'easy' drugs. It can be a very scary situation, & needs to be investigated thoroughly. Thanks again.

    August 22, 2008 at 1:40 pm |
  3. Jack Ferron

    I received a junk fax from these people and, in attempt to identify and sue them for sending me the junk fax, I ordered Soma from them over the Internet. I did not use the drug, though. I am glad these people have been apprehended and will be prosecuted.

    August 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  4. Sharon from Indy

    Thank you for the internet drug sales investigation! But, I think it is only a tip of the iceberg. At least you have gotten the ball rollling to question the internet pharmancies and the FDA.

    Keep us updated.

    August 22, 2008 at 11:46 am |
  5. Saad, Ramsey, NJ

    God bless you CNN and God bless you AC360 and the entire team. This is so important an area for the Government to be working on and yet so neglected or at least not getting enough attention as it deserves. Continue the good work – you will receive a lot of prayers and save a lot of lives. God bless.

    August 22, 2008 at 10:03 am |
  6. Annie Kate

    I can see the pitfalls in being able to get prescription drugs from the internet but are there any specific instances where it is to the person's advantage to get them there (assuming they are under a physician's care and actually have a valid prescription for what they are getting)?

    This has been an interesting investigation – I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 22, 2008 at 9:36 am |