The unique qualities of e-commerce make it difficult to regulate under any circumstances, but the growth of online pharmacies in particular is far outpacing the ability of government officials to investigate and enforce existing drug laws. In 1999, Americans spent an estimated $44 million purchasing prescription drugs from online pharmacies, a figure that is projected to reach $1 billion per year by 2003. In December of 1999, President Clinton proposed $10 million in new funding for the FDA to regulate Internet pharmacies and hire 100 new employees, but the FDA has yet to explain whether this would be enough to keep up with the rapid growth of online pharmacies. Clinton also proposed raising civil fines as high as $500,000 for pharmacies and pharmacists who violate state and federal drug laws, and he proposed giving the FDA administrative subpoena authority. Several members of Congress have proposed their own legislation, and last year Democrats on the House Commerce Committee asked the General Accounting Office to investigate online pharmacies. This paper will consider the current laws governing online pharmacies (to the limited extent the state of the law can be discerned), the practical limits of traditional regulation and enforcement, and possible legal and regulatory responses to online pharmacies.
Ty Clevenger, Internet Pharmacies: Cyberspace verus the Regulatory State, 15 J.L. & Health 165 (2000-2001)