Arlen Specter

Testimony before the U.S. Senate

Statement of Hon. Arlen Specter, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

May 16, 2008 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this important hearing. The problem of drug addiction has been with our society for decades. I first saw it in an intense fashion when I was district attorney of Philadelphia four decades ago, and the problem has been increasing in seriousness and is a major problem in our society.

With the Internet and technological advances, we now find that drugs are accessible by the rogue pharmacies, and the problem is one of enormous importance. It came into sharp view in Philadelphia in 2006 when there was a DEA bust of a major Internet drug ring run from Philadelphia by two foreign graduate students at Temple University and 25 co-conspirators who were arrested in four different countries.

It is possible to have legitimate purchase of drugs over the Internet, but there were only 12 such DEA registered pharmacies. Most of the other Internet pharmaceutical sales in the United States are legally suspect. Federal law mandates that there is a prescription before dispensing the drugs, which we all know, but that is avoided. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse discovered over 3 years the total number of websites been selling prescription drugs has increased enormously. The regulation of online pharmacies and doctors consists of a very patchwork arrangement so that it is the subject which requires, I do believe, Federal legislation, so I am glad to see such a distinguished panel here today.

We very much appreciate your presence, Mrs. Haight, with the situation that your son, Ryan Thomas Haight, died of an overdose of narcotics he had purchased on the Internet without a prescription. We have a very distinguished array of experts, and, regrettably, we are not going to have a very extensive array of Senators—not necessarily distinguished even when present, except for Senator Leahy and Senator Sessions. But it is a very, very busy day on Capitol Hill.

I am going to have to excuse myself to return to deliberations which are underway on the immigration issue. We have had more than two dozen meetings of lengthy duration, mostly in excess of 2 hours, where 12 Senators sit still—that is, we sit still; our jaws are not still—as we try to work through an extraordinarily difficult legislative issue.

Then that is compounded by the problem that we are having a series of votes at 10:30, and votes come ahead of everything else. That is our basic paycheck in the United States Senate, what our voting record is. But I have staff here who will be following the proceedings very closely, and I am sorry to miss the testimony, because this is an extraordinarily distinguished panel. Chairman LEAHY. During this, as the votes start, we will stop and start. Some of you are familiar with that. Senator Sessions has worked hard on this. Jeff, did you want to say anything?

Senator Sessions. If you do not mind, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Leahy. Go ahead.

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