Congressional investigators were able to purchase powerful painkillers and other drugs online without the required prescriptions, according to a report to be discussed at a Senate hearing today.

In one instance, a drug labeled as the powerful painkiller Oxycontin arrived inside a compact disc case and an HIV medication was shipped inside a canister labeled stain remover, the study by the General Accounting Office found.

Of the 68 online purchases the GAO made between January and June, 45 required no prescriptions, even if the medicines were addictive and or had serious safety restrictions. As in prior studies, the GAO found Internet sites that relied solely on online questionnaires to screen buyers, and received products that were not properly labeled or stored and arrived without patient pamphlets.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's permanent subcommittee on investigations, said he is holding the hearing to better understand the safety issues involved in the online purchase of prescription drugs.

Among the scheduled witnesses are the mother of a La Mesa, Calif., teenage boy and the widow of a marathon runner from Sacramento. Both died of overdoses on prescription drugs they ordered online. Their cases were spotlighted last year in a series of articles in The Washington Post.