ASOP’s European Counterpart Successful in Counterfeiting Illegal Online Pharmacy Sites

The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines recently conducted an unconventional public service campaign: using the same pay-per-click and banner style advertising commonly used by e-commerce websites, EAASM heavily promoted  a website designed to mimic a popular online drug seller storefront to German residents. Instead of providing prescription medications like a typical online drug seller, this site stopped one-click short and dispensed consumer educational messages -- explaining the dangers of purchasing from online drug sellers, and referring consumers to known legitimate pharmacies.

During the nine-week promotional period, the site registered 180,000 unique visitors from 112 different countries. Projections show that if the website had operated for 12 months it would have attracted  more than one million visitors and could have generated revenues from $15 -$ 43 million dollars. The scale of potential profits, the size and scope of the audience generated, and the ease by which it was executed demonstrates the global threat presented by illegal online drug sellers. EAASM’s report urges stakeholders to make the online environment harder for counterfeiters to operate within and therefore safer for consumers.

Global Leaders Commit to Addressing Illegal Online Drug Sellers

Washington (May 21, 2012) - The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) released the following statement from Libby Baney, J.D., a Vice President at FaegreBD Consulting and an advisor to ASOP. The comments concern a Declaration by the Leaders of the Group of Eight, made from Camp David on May, 19 2012.

The Group of Eight (G-8) has released a public declaration addressing major global economic and political challenges (available here). In this declaration, President Obama along with the other leaders of the G-8 stated their intent to address "rogue internet pharmacy sites" and counterfeit medical products. This statement reflects the growing concern over the health and safety of citizens and organizations who buy from illegitimate sources. The international nature of these rogue online pharmacy websites creates challenges for law enforcement. In response, the G-8 committed to exchanging information regarding these sites and sharing methods of combating counterfeit drugs.

A May 14th article from the Council on Foreign Relations sheds light on the scope of the international counterfeit drug problem: 

        • The counterfeit drug trade made an estimated $75 Billion in 2010. 
        • Between 2005 and 2010, all areas of the world showed an increase in counterfeit
           drug discoveries, with North America yielding a 77% increase. 
        • The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of all medication in global circulation
           could be fake. 
        • The counterfeit cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) was used in 19 medical practices in the
           United States in February 2012.

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with applicable laws. Members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, Enforce the Act, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, LegitScript, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org.

For more information about ASOP, visit http://www.safeonlinerx.com/alliance/or contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP

Internet.bs: A Safe Haven for Drug-Related Cybercrime?

Washington (March 15, 2012) - The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) released the following statement from Libby Baney, J.D., a Vice President at FaegreBD Consulting and an advisor to ASOP. The comments concern a Report issued by ASOP-member LegitScript entitled, "Internet.bs: A Safe Haven for Drug-Related Cybercrime?"

“The release of LegitScript's report, "Internet.bs: A Safe Haven for Drug-Related Cybercrime?" highlights in stark terms both the inherent public health dangers posed by illegal online drug sellers, and the impunity with which unscrupulous Domain Name Registrars operate. The concentration of illegal online drug sellers operating through a handful of ICANN-accredited Registrars raises serious questions about the ICANN accreditation process, and demonstrates the need for further investigation of such “safe haven” Registrars.”

The Internet.bs Report exposes some startling facts:

  • Internet.bs, one of about 450 ICANN-accredited Registrars, has only .2% of the global domain name market share, but registers approximately 33% of the world’s illegal online pharmacy domains.
  • More than 50% of all rogue online pharmacies are registered with just two Registrars.
  • More than 71% of all rogue online pharmacies are clustered with ten Registrars.

“The Internet.bs Report is further evidence that more needs to be done to protect consumers from illegal online drug sellers and “safe haven” Registrars, as these businesses endanger the public health and safety by not complying with U.S. laws, and make a hefty profit in the process. ASOP strongly supports the Online Pharmacy Safety Act (OPSA) currently introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. OPSA would protect U.S. consumers by helping to ensure access to safe and law-abiding online pharmacies by establishing a registry of all legitimate online pharmacy websites and by defining ‘valid prescription’ for purposes of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, Enforce the Act, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, LegitScript, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org.

For more information about ASOP, visit http://www.safeonlinerx.com/alliance/or contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP.

Online Pharmacy Safety Legislation Introduced in the House

Washington (February 28, 2012) - The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies cheers today’s introduction of the Online Pharmacy Safety Act (H.R. 4095) in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR). The bill is a companion to S. 2002, which was introduced in December 2011 by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

The Online Pharmacy Safety Act updates and enhances U.S. law to protect patients from the growing number of illegitimate and unsafe online drug sellers that prey on consumers. The bill would protect U.S. consumers by helping to and ensure access to safe and law-abiding online pharmacies.

The legislation has support of public health, consumer, business, and nonprofit organizations. Proponents of the bill have recently made the following statements in support of the Online Pharmacy Safety Act:

  • Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP): "For years, thousands of online drug sellers have been operating illegally on the Internet, bypassing critical public health and safety laws. The Internet has facilitated their illegitimate enterprise for too long; therefore, it is fitting that the bill mandates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services create an online registry to educate consumers and help the public not fall prey to these criminal operators. ASOP applauds Congressional leaders for introducing this important public health legislation."  

  • Eli Lilly & Company: "The Online Pharmacy Safety Act creates essential new tools to help protect consumers from the dangerous actions of illegal online drug sellers."  

  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP): NABP’s recent research found that more than 96% of sites offering prescription drugs for sale are doing so illegally. “Illegal Internet drug sales pose a significant health risk to U.S. citizens. NABP commends the bill sponsors’ commitment and determination in protecting our citizens’ health and welfare by addressing this important issue through the introduction of the Online Pharmacy Safety Act.”

  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS): “This legislation will protect Americans against this growing threat by ensuring they have the resources they need to access safe and legitimate online pharmacies.”
  • 

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, Enforce the Act, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, LegitScript, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org.

For more information about ASOP, visit http://www.safeonlinerx.com/alliance/or contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP.

ASOP Supports Legislation to Assist Consumers in Making Safe Online Drug Purchases

Washington (December 16, 2011) -  The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) applauds U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), along with Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) for introducing the Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 (S. 2002) today.

This bill takes a critical first step to update and enhance U.S. law to protect patients from the growing number of illegitimate and unsafe online drug sellers that prey on consumers. The bill would help to protect U.S. consumers and ensure access to safe and law-abiding online pharmacies.

Despite the existence of many online pharmacy websites that do adhere to safety standards, extensive and sophisticated criminal organizations are taking advantage of consumers who purchase medicine over that Internet. Outdated laws have enabled these criminal organizations to establish thousands of rogue internet sites that sell potentially unsafe drugs to Americans, while circumventing U.S. laws and pharmacy standards put in place to protect American patients. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) reports that 96% of all online drug sellers are illegitimate and operating in violation of U.S. law. Additionally, research conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans has purchased prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription.

The Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 would provide basic updates to the law to protect Americans against the growing number of illegitimate online drug sellers and ensure that Americans have the resources to access safe and legitimate online pharmacies. If enacted, S. 2002 will require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a consumer-accessible registry of legitimate, law-abiding online pharmacy websites so that consumers who choose to purchase medicine online will have a resource and confidence in the source of their medication.

The Act establishes clear criteria for determining an online pharmacy website's legitimacy, including that the site operate according to standards that are consistent with the NABP's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) program. The bill also provides immunity to Internet commerce companies which may voluntarily, in good faith, refuse to engage in a contract with online drug sellers that violate laws and/or fail to meet the criteria for inclusion on the registry.

Additionally, the Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 would offer much-needed updating to federal law regarding what constitutes a "valid prescription." Current federal law makes it clear that a “valid prescription” is required for the purchase of controlled substances but no such explicit requirement exists for non-controlled substances. This gap in consumer protection is continuously exploited by illegal online drug sellers. The Act would clarify that both controlled and non-controlled substances require a valid prescription for purchases, and require all prescriptions be issued for legitimate medical purposes, in the usual course of a medical professional's practice.

"The Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 creates essential new tools to protect consumers from the dangerous actions of illegal online drug sellers," said Bill Reid, senior director, Lilly Global Anti-Counterfeiting Operations, a member of ASOP.

"For years, thousands of online drug sellers have been operating illegally on the Internet, bypassing critical public health and safety laws. The Internet has facilitated their illegitimate enterprise for too long; therefore it is fitting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services be able to use the Internet to educate consumers and help the public not fall prey to these criminal operators." said Libby Baney, Vice President at B&D Consulting who advises ASOP.

“This legislation will protect Americans against this growing threat by ensuring they have the resources they need to access safe and legitimate online pharmacies. NACDS wholeheartedly endorses your legislation,” said Steven C. Anderson, President and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, Enforce the Act, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org. For more about ASOP: www.safeonlinerx.com

 For more information, please contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP,

ASOP Applaudes New Public Education Campaign

Washington (November 29, 2011) -  ASOP applauds the Attorney General Holder, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Blank and Director of ICE John Morton, and Ann Harkins, the CEO of National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) for introducing a new public education campaign that, among other things, warns consumers of the dangers of illegal online drug sellers. See sidebar for the campaign’s spots relating to internet drug sellers. For more about the campaign, see NCPC’s website, the video of the campaign announcement, and White House blog.

ASOP Welcomes New Member

Washington (November 28, 2011) - ASOP welcomes a new member Enforce the Act to the Alliance.

ASOP Statement on the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011

Washington (November 22, 2011)  - The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) released the following statement today from Libby Baney, a Vice President at B&D Consulting and an advisor to ASOP, concerning the recent introduction of the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011.

“ASOP enthusiastically supports U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) on the introduction of the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011. While it is important to recognize that all counterfeiting activities are both illegal and detrimental to our economy, counterfeit medications pose a unique and grave threat to the health and welfare of unsuspecting Americans. As such, those who endanger the lives of others with these illegitimate drugs need to face more severe penalties for their reckless actions.”

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with laws. Members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org. http://www.safeonlinerx.com/

For more information, please contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP.

ASOP Supports U.S. House of Representatives' Effort Targeted at Curbing Illegal Online Drug Sellers and Protecting Public Health

Washington (October 31, 2011) – Today, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is pleased to support the introduction of legislation that will assist in addressing the illicit activities of illegal online drug sellers. The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) was introduced on October 26, 2011, by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a bi-partisan group of 12 other members of Congress. Similar legislation was previously introduced in the Senate in May by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA).

Despite the existence of many safe online pharmacies, estimates show that the overwhelming majority (92-95%) of entities offering to sell drugs online are illegitimate and operate in clear violation of U.S. laws that were put in place to protect patients. Internet commerce companies have the ability to take voluntary actions to stop doing business with illegal online drug sellers, and now the Stop Online Piracy Act gives them every incentive to do so. If adopted, the Act will send a clear message that companies should stop facilitating criminal online activity that endangers public health and safety.

"Illegal online drug sellers should be held accountable for putting consumers’ lives at risk. We are encouraged that the House introduction of rogue sites legislation will help address this critical public health and safety issue,” said Libby Baney, Vice President at B&D Consulting who counsels ASOP.

ASOP has been a leading voice on the issue of online pharmacies since 2009. Recent research conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans had purchased prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription. That means more than 36 million Americans had the potential to be exposed to illegitimate medication sold online.

Representatives co-sponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act include: Reps. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Tim Griffin (R-AR), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Lee Terry (R-NE). After the bill's introduction, it will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over Internet commerce.

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with laws. Other members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NeedyMeds, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org. http://www.safeonlinerx.com/

For more information, please contact Philip Bonforte at 703-539-ASOP.

ASOP Supports Legislative Proposal Aimed at Curbing Illegal Online Drug Sellers and Protecting Public Health

Washington (May 17, 2011) - The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) welcomed recent introduction of legislation that will assist in addressing the illicit activities of illegal online drug sellers. The PROTECT IP Act was introduced last week by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a bi-partisan group of 11 other senators.

In comparison to the legitimate U.S. state licensed pharmacies that have an associated online website and comply with federal and state laws, estimates show that the overwhelming majority (92-95%) of entities offering to sell drugs online are illegitimate and operate in clear violation of U.S. laws that were put in place to protect patients. Internet commerce companies have the ability to take voluntary actions to stop doing business with illegal online drug sellers, and now the PROTECT IP Act gives them every incentive to do so. If adopted, the Act will be a clear indication that illegal online drug sellers will be held responsible for endangering public health and safety.

"There is no reason that these illegal online drug sellers should not be held accountable," said Libby Baney, Vice President at B&D Consulting who counsels ASOP. "We are pleased the PROTECT IP Act addresses this critical public health and safety issue and wish to thank Senator Leahy for his vision— encouraging private sector action against rogue sites in order to protect consumers from the potentially counterfeit or altered medications of illegal online drug sellers."

"While a handful of Internet commerce companies -- including domain name registries, domain name registrars, financial transaction providers, information location tools, and Internet advertising services -- have announced their intention to voluntarily enforce their terms of service even without this bill’s statutory safeharbor, many companies still sit on the sidelines," added Baney. "This legislation clarifies the fact that Internet commerce companies can – and indeed should – enforce their own private contracts against rogue sites, especially those that endanger the public health."

After the bill's introduction, it will be assigned a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over Internet commerce. A companion measure is currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives, but has not yet been introduced.

ASOP has been a leading voice on the issue of counterfeit medication and the actions of illegal online drug sellers since 2009. Recent research funded by ASOP and conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans had purchased prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription. That means more than 36 million Americans had the potential to be exposed to illegitimate medication sold online.

Senators co-sponsoring the PROTECT IP include:

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)]

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Other members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, Eli Lilly and Company, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and NeedyMeds. http://www.safeonlinerx.com/

For more information, please contact Nick Weber at 703-539-ASOP.

60 Minutes Shines a Spotlight on the U.S. Public Health Threat Posed by Counterfeit Medications

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is pleased to see Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigate the threat of counterfeit medications shipped into the United States, often secured through rogue online drug sellers. Dr. Gupta’s 60 Minutes investigation demonstrates the very real danger faced by Americans when purchasing medication. ASOP urges consumers to be proactive when shopping for medications online: make sure the website is properly verified or certified, or is affiliated with a state-licensed pharmacy. The two most trusted online pharmacy verification/certification programs are operated by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, through its Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program, and by Legitscript.com. As evidenced by the 60 Minutes segment, consumers who don’t confirm the legitimacy of the online pharmacy are at risk of receiving counterfeit or otherwise dangerous medication.

60 Minutes’ full story can be accessed here, and additional advice on obtaining medicines through a legitimate source is available here.

ASOP Applauds Federal Report Addressing Scourge of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals

Washington (March 4, 2011) —Today the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) praised the Obama Administration’s continued efforts in confronting the threat of illegal Internet drug sellers, as a new report on the subject was released during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Washington, DC.

The Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-agency Working Group Report is the first-ever comprehensive effort to study the impact of counterfeit medicines and offer implementation tactics involving multiple agencies, the private sector, and crucial international cooperation. Leading the effort for the administration is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Victoria Espinel.

"This report on counterfeit drugs is an important step in the effort to protect consumers from these potentially dangerous substances," said Jeannie Salo, Director of Global Anti-Counterfeiting, International Government Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company, a member of ASOP. "ASOP is thrilled that the IPEC has demonstrated such strong leadership and brought together the relevant U.S. government agencies and private sector stakeholders and focused their attention on finding ways to make the Internet safer for patients.”

The report details examples involving counterfeit medications, including instances when counterfeit anti-anxiety drugs sold to U.S. consumers actually contained strong sedative agents and a cancer drug trademarked by a U.S. company and illegally manufactured in Asia were devoid of the critical active ingredient.

"Whether we’re talking about a counterfeit lifestyle drug that contains dangerous chemicals or a counterfeit heart or cancer medication that contains inactive ingredients -- one counterfeit in our supply chain is too many," said Victoria Espinel, U.S. IPEC. "This is a ticking time bomb – particularly over the Internet.”

"The IPEC’s tenacity and effectiveness to achieve substantive and meaningful actions that can reduce the risks to life and health is commendable and exactly what is needed," said Libby Baney, Vice President at B&D Consulting who counsels ASOP."

Recent research funded by ASOP and conducted by The Partnership at DrugFree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans had purchased prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription. That means more than 36 million Americans had the potential to be exposed to counterfeit drugs.

"The report is another demonstration of the federal government's clear commitment to addressing the growing threat to public health caused by counterfeit pharmaceuticals,” added Baney. "ASOP applauds the Obama Administration for leading the way to improved patient safety through coordinated public and private action against illegal online drug sellers." The report, officially entitled Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-agency Working Group Report to the Vice President of the United States and to Congress, was prepared by eight entities – the IPEC, the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Departments of Justice, State, and Commerce, and the Agency for International Development.

Last December, Espinel announced at a White House Forum that 11 companies that facilitate Internet commerce were joining with the IPEC to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by targeting illegal online drug sellers. Thos companies are: GoDaddy, Google, American Express, eNom, MasterCard, Microsoft, Network Solutions, Neustar, PayPal, Visa, and Yahoo!

In June, 2010, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress a strategic plan to combat intellectual property theft, including the production and sale of counterfeit medications.

 

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies:

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Other members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, Eli Lilly and Company, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and NeedyMeds. www.safeonlinerx.com

For more information, please contact Brent Lowder at 703-539-ASOP.

The FDA warned the public last week about criminals posing as FDA officials

Washington (January 11, 2011) - The FDA warned the public last week about criminals posing as FDA officials to cajole online drug purchasers into paying them ‘fines” to avoid criminal penalties or worse. The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies fully supports the efforts by the FDA, DEA, ICE, DHS, and U.S. attorneys to investigate these criminals. ASOP believes patients should be able to safely and confidently access genuine, legal medicines on the Internet through legitimate online pharmacies, and that schemes for harassment and extortion should be prosecuted. We encourage consumers to confirm the legitimacy of any online pharmacies with which they do business through NABP or LegitScript, and to report any threatening calls to authorities immediately.

FDA warns public of internet pharmacy extortion scam

FDA Warns Public of Continued Extortion Scam by FDA Impersonators

 

36 million Americans have bought medications online without a doctor’s prescription. Research about dangerous practice – and the 11 internet commerce companies partnering together to protect patients – announced as part of White House Forum.

Washington (December 14, 2010) – Illegal online drug sellers have provided tens of millions of Americans prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription, recent research has found. These rogue sellers have preyed upon thirty six million people, or 1 in 6 Americans, exposing them to the potential of taking counterfeit and unapproved medications. The proliferation of illegal online drug sellers offering medication without a prescription has prompted major Internet commerce companies to take action to curb this dangerous practice.

The information was released today from The Partnership at Drugfree.org at the White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum. The research was funded by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), of which the Partnership at Drugfree.org is a member.

“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, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (“IPEC”). “It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior.

At the Summit, Espinel announced that 11 companies have come together voluntarily to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by targeting illegal online drug sellers. The companies include:

  • American Express
  • eNom
  • Go Daddy
  • Google
  • MasterCard
  • Microsoft
  • Network Solutions
  • NeuStar
  • PayPal
  • Visa
  • Yahoo!

"The announced collaboration is a huge win for public health, and marks the first time that so many Internet commerce stakeholders have worked together on a comprehensive solution to address the rogue online drug sellers posing as internet pharmacies," commented Libby Baney, an advisor at B&D Consulting who counsels The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (‘ASOP”). "ASOP joins IPEC in applauding the voluntary action by these 11 companies, and we look forward to working with these leading organizations to ensure patients have access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies."

In June, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress a strategic plan to combat intellectual property theft, including the production and sale of counterfeit medications. Since that time the IPEC has been working to increase cooperation between the government and the private sector to protect consumers from counterfeit medications sold on the Internet by illegal online drug sellers.

“The abuse of prescription medications is one of the most troubling public health problems in our country today,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “Parents and policy makers alike need to be concerned about how easy it is to order these potentially 'abusable' drugs online. We support efforts to take the steps necessary to shut down rogue sites and encourage patients to safeguard medications and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed.”

All legitimately operating, state-licensed pharmacies, whether they have a physical location or are found online, sell only FDA-approved medication and only with a prescription. Unlike legitimate pharmacies that offer consumers the option of ordering doctor-prescribed medications over the Internet, rogue Internet drug sellers pose as legitimate websites that offer prescription medicine for sale without a prescription. This makes it all too easy for people to unknowingly obtain potentially dangerous fake, substandard, or unapproved drugs.

“More than 95% of Internet organic search results yield illicit websites that offer to sell unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicine, mostly without a prescription,” said Jeannie Salo, Director of Global Anti-Counterfeiting, International Government Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company, a member ASOP. “The data announced at the White House today show that millions of Americans are putting their health at risk with online purchases by bypassing the laws – like the valid prescription requirement – that were put in place to protect patients,” added John Horton, President of LegitScript, a member of ASOP.

“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” added Baney. “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. We are eager to partner with the 11 Internet commerce companies announced today who have agreed to take a stand against this public health threat.”

The research regarding drug purchasing habits was conducted via telephone survey among a national probability sample of 1,015 adults. Interviewing for this CARAVAN® Survey was completed during the period November 4-7, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 3%.

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies: www.safeonlinerx.com

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws. Other members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, Eli Lilly and Company, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and NeedyMeds.

For more information, please contact Libby Baney at #703-539-ASOP.

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) Applauds Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator‘s (IPEC) Efforts to Combat Illegal Online Drug Sellers

On September 29, 2010, IPEC hosted a meeting at the White House with domain name registrars (“DNRs”) and senior U.S. government officials to discuss voluntary solutions to address the illegal sale of counterfeit non-controlled prescription medications online.

ASOP applauds IPEC for recognizing the risks to public health that arise from illegal online drug sellers. “We are thrilled that the White House is actively engaged in looking for solutions to this serious patient safety issue,” said Libby Baney, an advisor at B&D Consulting who counsels ASOP.

A recent report by the National Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) found that of the 7000+ websites NABP reviewed, approximately 96% of them were operating in violation of state, federal and/or NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards, and 84% of the sites did not require a valid prescription. These data show the clear threat these sites pose to patient safety.

“We would applaud any voluntary steps by the key stakeholders -- such as Domain Name Registrars, search engines, Internet Service Providers, and payment service processors -- to make the internet safer for our patients," added Jeannie Salo, Director of Global Anti-Counterfeiting, International Government Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. "If they can work together to reduce the ability of illegal websites to sell potentially dangerous product to Americans, it would represent a gigantic step for patient safety.

John Horton, CEO of LegitScript LLC added, “We applaud the efforts of Registrars who are committed to helping keep the Internet safe and secure. Both counterfeit drugs and prescription drug abuse are growing problems stemming from fake Internet pharmacies, and leading Registrars are important partners in helping to make this problem smaller."

ASOP commends Google, Yahoo! and Bing for taking voluntary steps earlier this year to prohibit illegal online drug sellers from purchasing search engine advertisements. Like the contemplated voluntary protocols for DNRs, this too was a big step forward in ensuring patients have access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws.

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) represents a broad coalition of stakeholders who seek to protect patient safety and ensure patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies.   

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP) newsletter highlights Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP)

With the support of NABP and other stakeholders, ASOP is educating government policymakers about the role Internet commerce stakeholders (eg,Internet service providers, search engines, domain name registrars), financial transaction entities, and other entities could play in protecting patient safety.  Read more on page 3 (147) of the August 2010 newsletter.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org Joins the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies

WASHINGTON (July 16, 2010) – The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) announced today that The Partnership at Drugfree.org (“the Partnership”) has joined the coalition in its efforts to protect patient safety and ensure patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws.

"The Partnership at Drugfree.org is a tremendous asset to ASOP," said Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, President and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), a member of ASOP.  "With their expertise and basis in science and research, combined with strong programs designed to prevent drug misuse and abuse, the Partnership will be a powerful ally in ASOP’s advocacy that all online pharmacies comply with federal and state laws.”  

The Partnership is a nonprofit organization that helps parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children. Bringing together renowned scientists, parent experts and communications professionals, the organization translates current research on teen behavior, addiction and treatment into easy to understand resources at The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

“The intentional abuse of prescription medications –legal substances of benefit when used appropriately—is the single most troubling phenomenon on today’s drug landscape,” said Steve Pasierb, President of The Partnership.  “The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies is doing important work to reduce the number of the illegal online pharmacies which serve as a source for both real and counterfeit medications for those who would abuse them.”

“The Partnership has a long and impressive record of public service relating to drug safety. ASOP is thrilled to have them as a partner," added Libby Baney, Advisor at B&D Consulting who counsels ASOP. 

Other ASOP members include the American Pharmacists Association, Eli Lilly, LegitScript and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Safe Online Pharmacy Coalition Lauds New Intellectual Property Plan: Plan Recognizes the Problem of Illegal Online Drug Sellers

WASHINGTON (June 22, 2010) – The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) applauds the Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property infringement released today by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC.)   

The strategy document is designed to protect the ideas and imagination of the American people by creating a comprehensive set of regulations that can be used across agencies and arenas to crack down on intellectual property infringement and counterfeiting. 

Included in the plan are several provisions aimed at curbing the online sale of counterfeit or substandard prescription medications that jeopardize the health of the American public. 

"We are thrilled that IPEC recognized the immense problem that illegal online drug sellers pose and has addressed it in its newly released strategy document," said John Horton, President of LegitScript, LLC which is a member of ASOP. “This is a breakthrough in the fight for better public health as well as for protection of intellectual property.” 

"We thank IPEC for its vision and its inclusion of concerns regarding illegal online drug sellers in the 2010 Joint Strategic Plan. We are eager to work with the administration and others across U.S. Government to make consumers’ use of the Internet for purchasing medications just as safe as traditional, brick-and-mortar pharmacies and their associated websites," said Scott LaGanga, executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.

ASOP comments filed with the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

WASHINGTON (March 24, 2010) - ASOP submitted comments to the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) at Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in response to a request for public comments about the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from intellectual property (IP) violations, and the threats to public health and safety created by infringement. 

Specifically, OMB asked for comments about counterfeit drugs and asked for suggestions on "specific methods to limit or prevent use of the Internet to sell and/or otherwise distribute or disseminate infringing products…” ASOP explained that the proliferation of counterfeit sales over the Internet is especially problematic in the area of prescription drugs.

While U.S. consumers who use brick-and-mortar pharmacies can trust that their medicines are safe, as the pharmacy, pharmacist and pharmaceutical product are all subject to safety laws and standards, consumers who purchase prescription products online often do not enjoy the same protections. ASOP’s comments to the IPEC detail how sales of counterfeit drugs and other online pharmaceutical IP violations, often involving infringements of both trademarks and patents as well as violating laws governing the approval of medicines, create both economic threats and serious threats to the health and safety of American consumers.

To best respond to these threats, ASOP encouraged the IPEC to work with certain online “gate-keepers” involved in the process through which counterfeit and other illicit drugs are advertised, sold and distributed to consumers through the Internet, such as domain name registrars and search engine operators.  ASOP believes the IPEC's work with these entities could effectively deter illegal activity without the need for additional legislation and without overtaxing the resources of the federal government.

For example, the IPEC could encourage the adoption and extension of existing voluntary protocols by these “gate-keepers,” which would significantly reduce the danger created by illegal online drug sellers' websites that abuse our nation’s IP laws.  ASOP’s full comments can be found at Regulations.gov. You can also read them here in PDF format.

Our comments for the FDA hearings on the Internet and Social Media Tools

In response to a request for public input from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the promotion of FDA-regulated medical products using the Internet and social media, ASOP submitted written comments to the FDA via Regulations.gov which were posted on March 2, 2010. 

ASOP believes that the Internet has been a positive force for knowledge, information, and convenience, and that patients should be able to easily find both accurate information about FDA-regulated products and safe and legitimate online pharmacies selling FDA-approved products.  ASOP urged the FDA to not overlook promotional activities done by illegal online drug sellers offering unapproved and potentially dangerous medicines to consumers in the FDA's efforts to provide guidance on the promotion of legitimate medical products using the Internet.

ASOP also encouraged the FDA to continue to take concrete steps towards holding those accountable who provide access to illegal and potentially counterfeit medicines online. ASOP suggested the FDA should develop guidance or regulations that would increase patient communication with pharmaceutical manufacturers and legitimate health care providers via the Internet and social media so that patients can more easily obtain accurate, clear information when making health care decisions.

Click here to read our comments in PDF format.

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