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Online 'pharmacies' selling diverted or bogus products, illicitly, will be countered by trade groups, leading e-commerce vendors
An unusually united, multinational set of trade groups—along with e-commerce providers—are taking steps to thwart the growing business of selling drugs in an unregulated or flat-out illegal manner. Now, these online pharmacies will be confronted by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP; Washington, DC), announced in late July. The trade groups are the US’ PhRMA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA; Brussels), the Japanese Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Assn. (JPMA; Tokyo) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manfacuturers & Associations (IFPMA; Geneva). Also on board are many of the leading credit card companies (Visa, American Express and others), the leading search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), Internet domain resellers (GoDaddy, Enom) and Neustar, an Internet and telecommunications verification service.
Ex-officio members are the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP; Washington, DC) and LegitScript (Portland, OR). ASOP has pharma manufacturers, retailers and healthcare providers as members; LegitScript is a privately held company that monitors online activity and e-commerce related to healthcare products. LegitScript, founded by a former White House drug policy officer, John Horton, works closely with the National Assn. of State Boards of Pharmacy (Mt. Prospect, IL) and uses principles similar to the latter’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice (VIPPS) program to audit online pharmacy policies.
The involvement of the search-engine and e-commerce companies appears to be the first time they’ve taken an active, organizational role in online pharmacy operations; there has been a running dialogue with the US Dept. of Justice over policing illegal online-pharmacy promotion, resulting in last year’s mammoth $500-million fine for Google.com. With them on board, the ability of online pharmacies to promote themselves, and to complete financial transactions, could be constrained. According to a CSIP statement, the new organization will perform public education, develop a list of safe online pharmacies (whether this is US-oriented or global remains to be seen), aid law enforcement efforts, and provide a neutral forum for sharing information among members. Its web address is www.safemedsonline.org.