Falsified medicines represent an over €52 billion industry. However, their impact extends beyond profits for criminals. Falsified medicines can significantly harm public and personal health. In the age of the Internet, these medicines have a new, easy route directly into medicine cabinets: illegitimate online pharmacies. According to the European Alliance of Access to Safe Medicines, 62% of medicines from online pharmacies could be substandard or counterfeit. In an effort to combat this growing health threat in the European Union (EU), the Commission recently released a new toolkit as a step toward protecting patient safety online.
As the European Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg said, “Falsified medicines can be ineffective, harmful or even deadly.” To ensure the health and safety of patients across the EU, the new toolkit will complement Europe’s new serialization requirements and focus on new measures to identify ways to prevent pharmacies from offering dangerous falsified medicines, and verify online pharmacies in the EU. This development builds on the commitment of the EU Commission in the fight against falsified medicines. In July 2011, the Falsified Medicines Directive set out to create mandatory, harmonized pan-European safety features designed to help authorities identify fakes before they get into the hands of patients.
The new toolkit will require each Member State to display a logo that will allow patients to identify pharmacies who will provide authentic medicines. The logo will appear on the websites of legally operating online pharmacies within the European Union (EU) and will link to the national competent authority website where all legally operating online pharmacies in their respective countries will be listed. Member States now have one year to put this important initiative in place. Though the logo cannot secure the Internet, it is a very important step.
The European Commission is the latest in a line of global players stepping up to fight falsified medicines and protect patients. The new toolkit addressing falsified medicines online is a first step, but there’s no silver bullet that will stop this threat to people. It will take putting the right measures and partnerships in place to truly ensure that people have access to the safe and effective medicines they need. Many initiatives, such as the Fight the Fakes campaign, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies EU, and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies dedicate their efforts to eradicating fake medicines. Many of these stakeholders will be gathering here in Brussels tomorrow to discuss these important efforts. Check back soon for more updates on LillyPad EU.