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North Dakota Attorney General wants crackdown on online pharmacies

BISMARCK - North Dakotans are getting addicted to prescription pain killers at increasingly alarming rates, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told a legislative panel Monday, and the drugs they're taking are often obtained over the Internet.

Stenehjem said that's why the state needs its own law to crack down on rogue online pharmacies that sell addictive prescription painkillers and other drugs with bogus doctor's prescriptions.

The Senate Human Services Committee agreed and immediately gave Senate Bill 2218 a do-pass recommendation after a hearing.

Federal laws already prohibit Internet sales of prescription drugs without an in-person doctor's visit, Stenehjem said, but federal resources are limited and federal officials may choose to investigate or prosecute only major cases, he told the legislators.

If SB 2218 goes into law, Stenehjem's office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, local state's attorneys, police and sheriffs can investigate and prosecute no matter what the federal government is doing, he said.

The rogue pharmacies often have business agreements with doctors who issue prescriptions to "patients" who submit an online questionnaire. These doctors don't see the patients, and, Stenehjem said, one television news program two months ago interviewed a doctor who worked for such a Web site and had a database of more than 32,000 "patients," none of whom he had ever seen in person.

The state Medical Association, state Board of Pharmacy and Board of Medical Examiners told the legislators they support the law.

Minnesota already has a similar law named for Justin Pearson of St. Cloud, who died of a prescription painkiller overdose after obtaining the drugs online through a questionnaire that passed for a doctor's visit.