Abuse of controlled prescription medications in the United States exceeds that of all illicit drugs combined except marijuana and has grown considerably in the past decade. Although available through traditional channels, controlled prescription medications can also be purchased on the Internet without a prescription. This issue has gained the attention of federal regulators, law enforcement, and the media, but physician awareness of the problem is scarce. This article describes the nature of the problem and its magnitude, discusses the challenges to federal and private efforts to combat illegitimate online pharmacies, and outlines strategies for physicians to recognize and minimize the unwarranted effects of the availability of these medications on the Internet.
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