Sci + Society,
Smart Drugs,

#016: Lawrence G. Walters and the Law Surrounding Online Pharmacies

May 29, 2013

This week’s podcast features the attorney Lawrence G. Walters from the Walters Law Group in Florida. Lawrence shares insights into the legal aspects of buying prescription drugs from online pharmacies. The Walters Law Group specializes in Internet advertising law in general and has particular experience in cases involving online pharmaceutical retailers.

The Differences between Advertising and Selling Pharmaceuticals

Lawrence explains that there are different sets of laws governing advertisements that are run publicly and the underlying product or service that a company sells. This is mainly due to the First Amendment, which supports freedom of speech. As long as the underlying product or service is legal in the state or jurisdiction where it is sold, it is legal to advertise it in any US state (or, so far as the US Supreme Court is concerned, anywhere in the world).  This can make things a little confusing when the advertisement might be entirely legal, whereas the product being sold is not.  And thanks to the Internet, a growing amount of advertising is inherently international.

Grey Areas and the Nebulous Nature of Online Pharmacy

Many people believe there are grey areas that can be exploited to quasi-legally obtain prescription drugs without prescription, but Lawrence tells us in this episode that most states actually do have clear and unequivocal laws regarding the possession, importation and transportation of medicines without the appropriate prescription.  For aggressive smart drug fans, this is the bad news.  But the silver lining is: Even though these laws exists, it’s prohibitively hard for the authorities to police the consumer side of things, and for the most part they don’t bother. Instead, they focus their resources on finding the illegal suppliers or sellers, and or on importers of substances found on a controlled substance “schedule.”

Boiled down: Your chances of getting caught for illegally possessing prescription-only drugs are low – but by no means zero.  In most cases, people are only charged for this because of an inspection that happens for some other reason, like being caught driving under the influence.

The Dangers of Purchasing Pharmaceuticals Without a Required Prescription

One point that Lawrence hammers on is how getting caught with prescription-only drugs that you shouldn’t have can potentially ruin your life. Not only do you risk getting a criminal record, but when you’re buying from the gray market, there’s not the normal consumer protections to ensure you’re buying what you think you’re buying. Most online pharmacies are looking for long-term repeat business, and so they’re incentivized to sell high-quality medicines…but there are many fly-by-night operations that don’t anticipate being in business (at least, not under the same name) long enough to build a reputation, so screwing the consumer might not concern them.

This Week in Neuroscience: Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation

Transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, is a form of neurostimulation where a low-amperage electric current is applied to certain parts of the brain via small electrodes place externally on the head. This flow of electricity depolarizes the neurons in your cerebral cortex, which apparently “primes it” for greater activity.

Although this might seem far fetched, there are a growing number of studies that have shown improvements in increasing a test subject’s learning speeds. In one recent study, people were put through a military-grade simulation to test threat identification. The application of tDCS improved the training results of the test group it was applied to, and the test subjects anecdotally reported an altered state of awareness, feeling calmer and more focused.

Other benefits of tDCS that were reported during studies:

  • Improved working memory
  • Improved language learning
  • Enhanced visual short-term memory

Investigating the mechanism behind tDCS’s effects, scientists are discovering increased amplitude in the brain’s electromagnetic responses to certain stimuli – as much as six times over baseline levels shortly after the tDCS application, although quickly normalizing towards baseline within a matter of hours.   The scientists also used DTI (Diffusion Tensor Imagery) scans to discover that actual anatomical changes took place in the brain’s white matter within only five days following the procedure.

Companies have already started to develop products that can deliver tDCS to the public, like the Focus V1. This device has not been approved by the FDA, but is available outside of the US starting in July 2013.  And although the US FDA has yet to give tDCS the nod, the US Air Force has been making use of the technology to decrease training time required for its drone pilots.

You can read the full article regarding tDCS here.

Key terms mentioned


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