Forum cracks down on illegal online medication

Posted by Emma Woollacott

One in six Americans has bought medication online without a prescription, says a White House forum, which has pulled together an industry group to fight the problem.

While plenty of legitimately operating, state-licensed pharmacies can be found online, they sell only FDA-approved medication and only with a prescription. Rogue sellers pose as legitimate websites but often sell fake, substandard, or unapproved drugs.

The White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum has recruited 11 companies to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to targeting illegal online drug sellers. They include American Express, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, PayPal, Visa and Yahoo!.

"Consumers need to understand that the products they receive from Internet drug sellers are often not the same, FDA-approved medicine that they could get from a legitimate pharmacy. Products sold on rogue websites may be ineffective, harmful or worse," said Libby Baney, an advisor at B&D Consulting who counsels the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP).

"The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies plans to procure additional research to gain insights into why consumers buy online, what kinds of medicines they buy, and why some consumers perceive the risks while others don't."

In June, the Obama administration submitted to Congress a strategic plan to combat intellectual property theft, including the production and sale of counterfeit medications. 

"Those who sell prescription drugs online without a valid prescription are operating illegally, undercutting the laws that were put in place to protect patients, and are thereby endangering the public health," said Victoria Espinel, US intellectual property enforcement coordinator.

"It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior."