The Clinton Administration announced Dec. 28 — a week after Michigan’s attorney general took action against online pharmacies — a proposed new initiative to protect consumers from the illegal sale of pharmaceuticals over the Internet. The initiative, for which $10 million has been earmarked in President Clinton’s FY 2001 budget to hire 100 additional staff members at the Food and Drug Administration, would, if approved by Congress, put the federal government on the frontlines of overseeing the online sale and distribution of pharmaceuticals to consumers.

The initiative is targeted at “unethical” online doctors who prescribe pills to consumers they have never met in states where they are not authorized to work and “unscrupulous, unlicensed,” and “fly-by-night” pharmacies that put online consumers at risk. It would create new civil penalties for the illegal sale of pharmaceuticals, give federal agencies new authority to gather information to prosecute offenders, expand federal enforcement efforts, and launch a new public education campaign about the potential dangers of buying prescription drugs online.

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