60 Ideas for Europe

Internet regulation

As the biggest unregulated market in the world, the internet leaves patients who choose to buy online at particular risk of counterfeit/substandard medicines. The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM) is conducting internet research to assess this growing threat. Thus far, some worrying results have been revealed, including:

• 93.8% do not have a named, verifiable pharmacist to answer questions, meaning that there is no medical control or guidance for people purchasing products
• 90.3% do not require sight of a prescription; patients can obtain potent drugs without medical direction or assessment
• 95.6% are not licensed by a board of pharmacies or pharmacy listing, meaning that they are not bound by any professional, legal or safety regulations
• 55.8% offer ‘bulk discounts’ or ‘specials’ on POMs – this type of promotion is clearly medically inadvisable, irresponsible and possibly life-threatening
• 20.7% have a ‘stamp’ of approval from a recognised society
? However, of these, when clicking on the stamp, 85.7% lead you to a bogus ‘approval’ page, with a URL corresponding to their own website

These findings lead the EAASM to believe that purchasing medicines online presents an extreme risk and that the legitimate stakeholders involved in the internet must act now. Local country and European policy-makers have a duty to better regulate the web, in order to help protect citizens from substandard/counterfeit medicines and the criminals behind them.

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  1. Hi Jim.

    Can you please tell us a little about the EAASM? I’d be interested to hear how it is funded, and which pharmaceutical companies support it.

    I’m extremely concerned whenever I hear about organisations seeking to regulate the internet, and I’d appreciate understanding who would gain from such regulation.

    Best,

    David.

  2. Thanks for the questions David.

    The EAASM is a multi-sectoral alliance of people, organisations and companies interested in patient safety. It is registered in England as a Ccommunity Interest Company (CIC) and its membership, objectives and constitution are completely transparent and can be found at http://www.eaasm.eu

    Like you, I am extremely cautious aboout attempts to regulate the internet. In my down-time, I assist my wife in the running of a tutoring centre which relies heavily on the internet. I view it as the single biggest development in global education in history.

    That said, prescription medicines are available on prescription for good reasons and my main concern is for those vulnearble people who, for good reasons such as stigma and discrimination, remove themselves from the healthcare system, and self-medicate. The reality is that they are often prey to people that you and I would not recognise as “healthcare providers.”

    Neither I nor the EAASM has any interest in excluding legitimate pharmacies from the internet. What we seek to end is the proliferation of dubious sites peddling counterfeit and unlicensed drugs to an unsuspecting public. As for who will benefit….patients. People just like you and I.

    The EAASM is able to accept funding from any legitimate donor (indeed it is obliged to under Law.) In reality, to date it has received the bulk of its funding from the pharmaceutical industry but this is changing as the Alliance’s profile grows. We receive no Government funding.

    Thanks again for your response, and I hope the above is of use.

    Jim

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