News Column

UPS to Pay $40 Million in Online Drug Shipping Probe

March 29, 2013

Amy Pavuk, Orlando Sentinel


UPS, which has been the target of a federal investigation related to packages shipped from online pharmacies, agreed on Friday to pay $40 million to the government to settle the case.

As part of the non-prosecution agreement between the shipping company and the U.S. Department of Justice, UPS agreed that it was aware that Internet pharmacies violated the law when shipping controlled substances and other drugs without a valid prescription.

"Despite being on notice that such Internet pharmacies were using its services, UPS did not implement procedures to close the accounts of those pharmacies, permitting them to ship controlled substances and prescription drugs from 2003 to 2010," an agreed statement of facts said.

Federal law prohibits the purchase of controlled substances -- which include painkillers -- without a valid prescription from a physician. A prescription based solely on a customer completing an online questionnaire is not valid.

As part of the settlement, the government agreed to not prosecute UPS on charges ranging from money laundering to distribution of controlled substances.

UPS, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment, is not the only shipping company being targeted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

FedEx has also acknowledged it too is under investigation, calling the California-based probe a threat to customers' privacy, and "absurd and deeply disturbing."

In a statement issued Friday, FedEx said: "It is unclear what federal laws UPS may have violated. We remain confident that we are in compliance with federal law. FedEx is a transportation company and stands ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement. We continue to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration to give us a list of pharmacies that they believe are operating illegally so we can immediately shut off shipping services to those pharmacies."

The DEA said Friday that UPS has "cooperated fully" with the investigation and has taken steps to ensure illegal Internet pharmacies cannot ship drugs through the company.

"DEA is aggressively targeting the diversion of controlled substances, as well as those who facilitate their unlawful distribution," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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