Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

United Nations: Guidelines Target Internet Drug Deals

(Mar. 20, 2009) On March 17, 2009, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) issued guidelines on the sale of drugs over the Internet. The INCB is the United Nations' body to monitor the implementation of drug control conventions; it was founded in 1968. Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the INCB, described the new guidelines as necessary due to the rapid development of Internet pharmacies, which could be used to deal in illegal drugs, such as heroin or amphetamines, as well as to sell medications without their proper prescriptions. Ghodse stated, “Internet pharmacies can be accessed by anyone, anywhere who happens to be online. While efforts have been made at the national level, it is concerted, supportive international action that will make the difference.” (Internet Drug Dealers Targeted by New UN Guidelines, UN NEWS CENTRE, Mar. 17, 2009, available at

The guidelines recommend that each nation take a number of administrative, legislative, and regulatory steps to curb illicit sale of controlled substances. The INCB consulted with Interpol, the Universal Postal Union, Internet service providers, financial services organizations, and pharmaceutical associations to develop the guidelines. (Id.)

The problem of uncontrolled pharmaceutical sales via the Internet is widespread and includes drugs thought to treat a range of conditions, from diabetes and obesity to impotence and hair loss. In November 2008, businesses suspected of selling drugs illegally online were raided by the police in nine countries, in an operation coordinated by Interpol. An additional concern expressed by Ghodse is that children and adolescents could be obtaining medications through these online dealers. (Mark Heinrich, U.N. Advises Governments How to Stop Internet Drug Peddling, REUTERS, Mar. 17, 2009, available at