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Thursday, June 17, 2004

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Technology -- La Mesa mom tells Congress about pharmaceutical dangers on Internet

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Technology -- La Mesa mom tells Congress about pharmaceutical dangers on Internet

By Joe Cantlupe
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
2:26 p.m. June 17, 2004

WASHINGTON – The mother of La Mesa teenager Ryan Thomas Haight always figured her bright, athletic son would make a name for himself, be somebody.
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More than three years after Haight's death from an overdose of prescription drugs he purchased over the Internet, his mother Francine Hahn Haight testified before a congressional committee Thursday, urging lawmakers to crack down on on-line abuses that result in tragedies similar to what her family endured.

She also asked the nation to remember who Ryan was, and why he died.

"We parents often worry about our children," Haight told the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is examining pharmaceutical sales on the Internet. "We worry that they will try illegal street drugs, such as cocaine, LSD, heroin, and others," she said.

Haight, a nurse who now resides in Laguna Niguel, said she had plenty of concerns while raising three children. "We worry about porn and strangers they might meet on the Internet," she said, fighting back tears. "But never did I worry about buying prescription drugs on the Internet."

Her understanding about the danger of prescription drugs and the Internet came after her son's death, she said.

The 17-year-old was found dead in his parents' La Mesa home on Feb.12, 2001. Authorities said he had mixed numerous pills, including the powerful narcotic hydrocodone, the generic for Vicodin and Lortab.

Francine Haight was among several witnesses who told the Senate panel about the growing problems of prescription drugs purchased over the Internet.

Investigators for the General Accounting Office said they were able to easily purchase drugs from several U.S. Web sites where the only information they needed was a credit card.

But a GAO report said that Canadian pharmacies that worked on the Internet had stricter standards than U.S. pharmacies in verifying prescriptions. Some drugs obtained from pharmacy sites from other countries, including Mexico, came without patient warnings or arrived in damaged packages.

"The GAO investigation does reveal some encouraging news for those of us who use bona fide established domestic Internet pharmacies and those of us who support the safe importation of Canadian drugs," said Sen. Norm Coleman, D-Minn., chairman of the investigations subcommittee.

Ryan Haight's name is on a bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others in Congress that is aimed at thwarting problems posed by Internet shopping for drugs.

In the meantime, Francine Haight has started an organization named RyansCause to fight prescription drug abuse, especially among the young.

Haight occasionally wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke. Two of her children, Natalie, and Jeremy, were by her side.

Calling her son an "incredible boy," Ryan Haight was a top honors student, traveled the world and played varsity tennis for three years. He was considering a career in the software industry.

Ryan Haight began experimenting with prescription drugs following an exchange in an Internet chat room, his mother said. Ryan Haight made the purchases with money orders, she said.

"It was like buying candy in a grocery store," Francine Haight said.

The doctor and pharmacist involved in selling the drugs to Ryan Haight were jailed.

"From the time he was little, I always believe that he would make a difference in this world," Francine Haight said of her son.

As the Senate continues to investigate the dangers of prescription drugs used over the Internet, it ensures that Ryan Haight has made a difference, Coleman said.

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