17 March 2009

INCB Launches Guidelines for Preventing the Illegal Sale of Internationally Controlled Substances via the Internet

VIENNA, 17 March (UN Information Service) - In an effort to prevent illegal drugs being trafficked via the Internet, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) launched Guidelines for Governments on Preventing the Sale of Internationally Controlled Substances through the Internet today.

The global nature of the problem demands that Governments worldwide cooperate with each other to tackle the problem. "Internet pharmacies can be accessed by anyone, anywhere who happens to be online. While efforts have been made at the national level, it is concerted, supportive international action that will make the difference," said Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the INCB. "Therefore, the Board decided to provide a framework for coordinated international action and cooperation elaborating the most essential measures which need to be taken," he added.

The now published Guidelines have been prepared in response to requests by Governments to explore ways and means of tackling this problem. To ensure practicality in application of the Guidelines, the Board has worked with national experts and relevant international organizations such as Interpol or the Universal Postal Union, Internet service providers, financial services and pharmaceutical associations.

The Guidelines recommend that Governments take a wide range of actions to curb the illicit sale of internationally controlled substances, including administrative, legislative and regulatory provisions. The Board invites Governments and international organizations to join it in its efforts to protect the public against the illegal distribution of internationally controlled substances and to implement the recommendations of the Guidelines to the fullest extent possible.

For several years, the Internet has been exploited for criminal activities, including drug trafficking. The problem extends beyond the sale of illicitly manufactured natural and synthetic drugs such as heroin or amphetamines; it also include pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, methylphenidate and the group of benzodiazepines. Most of these preparations have properties similar to illicitly manufactured drugs and their abuse can be as dangerous as the abuse of heroin, cocaine or amphetamines; they should only be available on prescription and consumed under medical supervision.

However, so-called "Internet pharmacies" illegally sell such drugs without the required prescription. In 2008, a study in the United States identified 365 sites offering internationally controlled substances for sale. Only two of these sites had been certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as legitimate Internet pharmacy practice sites. Illegal Internet pharmacies exist in all regions and their products have been seized in many countries in the world.

While these pharmacies provide an easy source of illicit drugs to drug abusers, they are also purchased by drug traffickers and eventually end up being peddled at the street level. "The online sale of such pharmaceuticals by unscrupulous racketeers is no different from the trafficking in illicit drugs, as it endangers lives just as much as street sales do," cautioned Prof. Ghodse

While the Board recognizes the important role the Internet plays for today's business and private communications, it also cautioned against its misuse, and has been sounding the alarm on the illegal sale of illicit drugs over the Internet for some time now.

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Guidelines for Governments on Preventing the Sale of Internationally Controlled Substances through the Internet: http://www.incb.org/incb/en/internet_guidelines.html

For further information, please contact:

Gisela Wieser-Herbeck
Drug Control Officer, INCB Secretariat
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-4175
Email: gisela.wieser-herbeck@incb.org