The war against illegally prescribing online drugs scored a small victory this week.
The Colorado doctor who prescribed anti-depressants to a Stanford University student who later committed suicide pleaded guilty to practicing medicine without a license in a California court on Tuesday.
Dr. Christian Ellis Hageseth was accused of breaking the law by prescribing drugs to a patient in California, a state where he was not licensed to practice medicine.
Hageseth was licensed in Colorado at the time but has since surrendered his license. The court found that in 2005, he had written the prescription for 19-year-old John McKay without actually doing an evaluation of the student.
After Mckay filled out a questionnaire at the Web site USAnewRX.com, Hageseth reviewed McKay's answers and issued a prescription for 90 tablets of fluoxetine hydrochloride, a generic form of Prozac.
Two months after receiving the pills, Mckay committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning but alcohol and flouxetine were reportedly found in his system (see the CBS story on YouTube), which prompted authorities to investigate the case.
The Medical Board of California asked the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office to prosecute the matter after conducting an investigation. Hageseth appealed the decision to the California State Appeals Court, claiming he should not be prosecuted because he never entered California. But the court denied the appeal.
In return for his plea, Hageseth was promised no state prison and up to one year in jail. He will be sentenced April 17.
San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Mercury News and the Daily Journal that the case sets a precedent for online pharmacies that send drugs across state lines.
"The Internet does not mean you can practice in every other one of the 49 states," he said. "You better be licensed."