Four of the biggest pharma manufacturing associations are calling for more patient awareness of the burgeoning issue of fake drugs sold on the internet.
In a joint statement , the organisations – International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and Japanese Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (JPMA) – said the internet is breeding increasing numbers of “rogue internet sites” selling counterfeit meds to unsuspecting consumers.
Citing a recent report from the Pharmaceutical Security Insitute, the group said incidents of counterfeiting were documented in every therapeutic category and every region of the world, and noted that in a one-week Interpol crackdown in September last year 2.4 million potentially harmful drugs worth an estimated $6.3m were seized.
The consortium said increasing patient awareness of the illegal activities is the solution, and called upon industry, the regulators and other international organisations to help spread the word.
“The Internet has opened the door to thousands of illegal or rogue internet sites posing as legitimate pharmacies and selling potentially unsafe medicines to unknowing consumers,” the organisations said.
“We support and encourage governments and other stakeholders to develop robust education and awareness programs to inform the public about the potential dangers of purchasing medicines online from illegitimate sellers and to raise awareness about how patients can purchase medicines safely from lawful sources.”
Speaking to in-PharmaTechnologist.com, IFPMA’s associate director of communications Peter Shelby also stressed the importance of raising awareness amongst local authorities if the group’s recommendations are to make headway.
“This is a problem across many different countries, so an increase in law enforcement is very important,” he told us. “We need to get local authorities on the side of patients. This is something that can pose a significant risk to them, we need to raise awareness amongst the local authorities of this.”
He added that patient organisations will play a crucial role in alerting the public, local authorities and patient populations to the dangers of fake meds bought online, because they already have access to the target audiences.
Widening the net
Besides cheering the individual and cooperative work of the US government, the European Union (EU) and its member states, the Japanese government, and international organisations, the four associations have also urged more private sector stakeholders to take action.
They said firms should follow the example set by several private US firms, including Google and Go Daddy, which launched the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) in 2010 in a bid to ease the burden.
“Internet domain name registrars, search engine operators, and payment service providers, could play critical roles in ensuring patient safety,” the group said in the statement.
They went on to single out the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the assignment of generic top level domains and accredits domain registrars, commending it to “take appropriate actions and ensure accountability measures in order to protect internet users from illegitimate online sites that are engaged in the illicit sale of prescription medicines.”
The syndicate also praised the Japanese Government, which is set to launch both a website program for public education and a public and private initiative against counterfeits, marking the Asia Pacific region as the area most plagued with counterfeiting.
The organisations looked to a 2011 Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) study, which showed that Asia accounts for around half of all counterfeiting, theft and illegal diversion incidents.