As of December 31, 2016, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has reviewed over 11,000 websites selling prescription medicine and found 96% of them to be operating illegally. More than half of these sites, identified by NABP as Not Recommended, offer foreign and unapproved drugs that may be substandard or counterfeit. These sites pose a public health risk by undermining standards for the practice of pharmacy, standards for medication safety and efficacy, and regulations for safeguarding the medication supply chain from counterfeit drugs.
Counterfeiters use intricate sales and distribution networks to infiltrate global supply chains, according to the recently released US Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. The report, Supporting Innovation, Creativity & Enterprise: Charting a Path Ahead, includes an infographic illustrating the complex international sales and distribution channels criminals use to sell counterfeit medicine. For example, the report states, “[A] consumer accessing a website purporting to be a ‘Canadian pharmacy’ will in fact access one of numerous ‘mirror’ counterfeiting sites managed from Russia, with web servers in Brazil and China, with payment processing operations run out of a bank in Azerbaijan, with bulk products shipped from India or China, transiting through Hong Kong, then sent by air to the United Arab Emirates, passing through London Heathrow airport, and with counterfeit inventory to be finished (packaged) in the Bahamas, before being delivered to a customer in the United States or elsewhere.”
These findings reinforce the critical need for consumers to recognize the risk of buying medicine from unknown sources online and the significance of websites using the .pharmacy domain name. These sites have been verified by NABP, and patients can be sure the medication and information they find there are authentic and safe.
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