DEA unveils hotline to report illegal prescription drug sales and rogue online pharmacies
ALEXANDRIA, VA., December 15, 2004 -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has launched a toll-free international hotline to report the illegal sale and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs. People now will be able to provide anonymous telephone tips about the diversion of prescription drugs into the illegal market by individuals and suspicious Internet pharmacies. In addition, such information can be reported online through the DEA Web site.
According to DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy, "For the first time -- with one simple call -- people in the United States and Mexico have an anonymous, safe, and free way to bring information about suspected illegal pharmaceutical distribution to DEA. This information will greatly assist us in bringing drug dealers to justice and preventing the tragedies that come from prescription drug abuse."
Abuse of certain prescription drugs -- controlled substances such as painkillers and performance enhancing steroids -- has become an increasingly widespread problem in the United States, leading to dangerous abuse, addiction and sometimes fatalities. The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports 6.3 million persons currently use prescription medications non-medically.
"DEA is particularly interested in hearing from families whose loved one has overdosed or died as a result of obtaining pharmaceuticals over the Internet. Tips including the Web addresses will help us put these pill pushers out of business," Tandy stated. Anonymous reports will be taken at 1-877-RxAbuse or can be made online at www.dea.gov by clicking on a link and filling out an electronic form.
According to data collected by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), since 1995 the number of drug abuse-related emergency room visits involving pain relievers such as Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and Darvon, increased 153 per cent from (from 42,857 to 108,320). One out of every ten high school seniors now reports abusing powerful prescription pain killers. Preliminary data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's Attitude Tracking Study suggests that many adolescents do not consider pharmaceutical drug abuse risky. Unless attitudes change, more teens may be willing to experiment with these types of drugs in the future.
In March of this year, DEA, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Surgeon General announced a coordinated, comprehensive plan to address the problem of prescription drug abuse as part of the President's 2004 National Drug Control Strategy. This prescription drug abuse hotline is one piece of the strategy.
DEA also is pursuing illegal Internet drug operations. A flashing notice on the DEA Web site (www.dea.gov) already enables people to report suspicious Internet pharmacies online. With a click of the mouse, people can pull up a simple form that allows them to get this information to DEA in a timely fashion. Since the Web notice went up in June, 810 tips have been received.
Callers will be able to make confidential reports by dialing toll free 1-877-RxAbuse (1-877-792-2873) around the clock, 365 days a year. The hotline will be staffed by bilingual operators housed at DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). This is a toll-free call from Mexico, as well.
Posted: December 2004
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