Owner of Web Site Selling
Nitrous Oxide Indicted

Copyright 2000, Reuters Health, May 18, 2000

The proprietor of an Internet-based "virtual" retail business has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Roanoke, Virginia, for the interstate marketing of the misbranded drug, nitrous oxide, a substance blamed for the death of a Virginia college student.

The grand jury charged Lawrence Teiman of Tempe, Arizona, with repeatedly selling nitrous oxide to customers in the Western District of Virginia via the Web site bongmart.com, which Teiman owns and operates.

While nitrous oxide is legitimately sold as a propellant, Teiman was illicitly marketing the compound with an inhalant device, which allowed its user to get "high" by inhaling the drug.

After a student at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg died in 1999 from nitrous oxide inhalation, an investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Roanoke police revealed that the decedent and others had obtained the drug and related materials from the BONGMART Web site.

If convicted on all counts, Teiman, who also owns the retail business "Shirts N’ Things," could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $1,250,000.

In the course of the FDA’s investigations of illegal pharmaceutical Web sites, the agency has identified a wide range of abuses, …[including] trafficking in products containing GBL, the so-called "date rape drug," noted Tom McGinnis, of FDA’s office of policy.

In its March 21 testimony before the Senate, FDA stated that it has 134 open investigations of illegitimate Web sites pending, 54 of which involve the sale of drugs without a prescription or the sale of illegal drugs. The remainder involve "other various types of health fraud," such as the selling of GBL drugs, McGinnis said.

Thus far, the agency has made 36 arrests and obtained 17 convictions against operators of the sites, according to FDA’s testimony. In addition, FDA has sent warnings to proprietors of 23 domestic Web sites as well as 17 electronic "cyber-warnings" to parties doing business overseas.

Although US Web site owners presently receive hardcopy warnings from FDA, McGinnis noted that the agency is working to expand its "cyber-warning" program to include stateside Web sites as well. The action comes at a time when FDA is stepping up the pressure on illicit Internet businesses that use cyberspace to sell illegal or unapproved drugs, or sell drugs without a prescription.

...Congress is currently considering a proposal by the Clinton administration that would impose fines of up to $500,000 on parties using the Internet to skirt FDA regulations. The plan, part of Clinton’s budget request for fiscal year 2001, would also give FDA an additional $10 million to fight violative drug selling practices in cyberspace. The proposal would augment a scheme launched in 1999 by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to make it harder for illicit Internet-based pharmacies to do business. Under that program, NABP verifies through its database and clearinghouse process, whether a particular Web site is operating within FDA regulations, then issues to legitimate sites, its "seal of approval."

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