The web has become a notorious channel for fraudsters to sell counterfeit and often dangerous drugs to unsuspecting consumers. Over the past number of years, newspaper headlines had been dominated with genuinely frightening tales of the dangers of purchasing unregulated drugs online. Many consumers are often attracted by cheap, inexpensive deals advertised for such products. But at what cost?
Following on from the precedent set in the US by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NAPB), The European Commission recently proposed a new policy to further strengthen the regulation of online sales of pharmaceutical products. To effectively police the sale of online drugs, they issued a directive stating that a universally accredited hallmark must be clearly visible on all online drug sites. The hallmark itself allows consumers to identify whether the site is certified and legitimate. Only authorised online pharmacies who have proven lawful licenses will be granted this essential ‘seal of approval’.
The European Commission’s decision comes a few months after a similar initiative was promoted by the National Association of Pharmacists of the USA. The association submitted an application on ‘behalf of international pharmacy coalitions and national pharmacy associations to ensure that the .PHARMACY gTLD shall serve as a trusted, hierarchical, and intuitive namespace for legitimate Internet pharmacies’.
Investigations by the association uncovered some startling statistics. After analysing numerous websites selling pharmaceutical products since 2008, they found that more than 96% of the 11,000 sites assessed were non-compliant with United State’s federal law for the sale of drugs. At present, 62% of these sites did not present an official mailing address. In addition, 91% of the sites did not appear to be linked to online networks authorised to sell drugs on the web.
It goes without saying that rogue websites selling unregulated drugs online present great dangers to the health of consumers on a global level. Thankfully, the proposal presented by the European Commission marks a progressive step forward in consumer protection.
This directive will also be of enormous benefit to pharmaceutical distributors in terms of protecting their brand equity, online reputation and digital assets. The decision of the European Commission is ultimately a victory for legitimate online drugs stores in protecting their brand. Ridding the web of rogue sites selling counterfeit drugs ensures that consumers can purchase safe products from genuine and lawful distributors. Trust between consumers and digital brands will be further cemented.
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