The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly Update February 15, 2010
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Partnership for Safe Medicines Applauds Google's Updated U.S. Pharmaceutical Advertising Policy

WASHINGTON, DC - Feb. 10, 2010 - The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) today commended Google for its updated policy on U.S. pharmaceutical advertising through its paid search program, AdWords.

Toward the end of the month, Google will refine its advertising model to accept ads only from online pharmacies in the U.S. that are accredited by the National Association Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program.

The changes will cut out third-party verifiers, leaving VIPPS as Google's lone online pharmacy accreditation program for drug advertisers in the U.S. While online pharmacies from other countries do pose a threat to consumers purchasing medicines online, PSM acknowledges that the new requirements are a step in the right direction.

"As a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting consumers from counterfeit medicines, we've been highly critical of search engines that have permitted illegitimate online pharmacies to advertise fake, substandard and unauthorized medicines," said Marv Shepherd, PhD, PSM president and director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Pharmacy. "This is a significant step toward protecting consumers online and thwarting the growing threat of counterfeit drugs."

PSM Vice President and Executive Director of the Institute of Health Law Studies Bryan Liang, MD, PhD, JD concurred saying, "Last year, we published the first study identifying the dangers associated with online drug sellers and the limited oversight of search engines. In addition, a later, joint study released by an online pharmacy verification service and an internet compliance company found that 80-90 percent of search engine-sponsored advertisements of online pharmacies violated federal and state laws, including the sale of substandard or counterfeit drugs." Added Dr. Liang: "We've long insisted that online pharmacies be licensed through programs like VIPPS, and we are appreciative that Google recognized the risks of these online drug sellers through its new policy."

Tom Kubic, president of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and PSM partner, encouraged the other major providers of internet search tools to follow Google's lead. "Clever criminals will quickly adapt to these changes and move to other search engines to peddle their unsafe medicines," said Kubic. "Only by adopting uniform strict standards on paid advertising can we really protect unsuspecting patients."

PSM also noted the importance of keeping Google's amended requirements in perspective amid many other unaddressed issues in the counterfeit drug space. "For instance, we need to see new legislation that prohibits financial transactions for drug sales of unlicensed pharmacies and creates criminal penalties for Web sites, search engines and individuals who participate in the sale of contraband or counterfeit drugs," said Liang. "Our work is far from over."
Top News


Michigan: MSU Announces Counterfeit Protection Program


Michigan State University has recently unveiled A-CAPPP, the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program, which the school is touting as the nation's first comprehensive research and training program designed to address counterfeiting. MSU officials said they're working with the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and the Food and Drug Administration, among other entities, to create a database that will track counterfeiting incidents in the U.S. dating to 2000. Among the fakes are counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa and counterfeit food additives in China. ("MSU Launches Effort to Block Knockoffs," Detroit Free Press, February 9, 2010; Story here)

World News


Nigeria: Government Releases Mobile Counterfeit-Detection Device


A device is now in place in Lagos that will enable drug consumers to determine at purchase whether a drug is authentic or counterfeit. The system, called the Mobile Anti-Counterfeiting Solution, works by scratching a scratch card attached to the back of a drug and sending the number underneath to a code number or via SMS through a cell phone. The customer immediately gets a reply stating whether the drug is genuine or fake. Dr. Paul Orhii, Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), expressed hope that many pharmaceutical companies, importers and marketers will explore the facility to regain their markets from counterfeit drug manufacturers. ("NAFDAC Launches Mobile Anti-Counterfeiting Solution," Sun News, February 9, 2010; Story here)



Uganda: Counterfeit Drugs Seized by Police


The Police and officials from the National Drug Authority (NDA) in Iganga, Uganda have impounded over 10 containers of counterfeit drugs smuggled from Kenya. The drugs were seized from a boutique in Iganga town on Sunday. The counterfeits included chloroquine phosphate injection, fansidar, quinine phosphate injection, septrine, quinine tablets, diazepam, erythromycin tablets and grip water, and some of the drugs were banned in Uganda. ("Fake Drugs Impounded in Iganga," New Vision, February 9, 2010; Story here)



India: Officials Shut Down Unlicensed Pharmacies


Drug control squads in Jagatsinghpur, India conducted raids on several pharmacies on Friday for running their shops without a license and for selling duplicate and substandard medicines. Drug Inspector Mr. Sahoo said that along with the nearly 550 licensed drug stores available to the public in the Jagatsinghpur district, numerous unlicensed shops have begun to pop up in more rural areas. Officials in this region are taking action against these unlicensed drug stores and the selling of counterfeit drugs in general. ("Orissa Drug Control Squad Seizes Six Fake Medicine Shops in Jagatsinghpur District," Orissa Diary, February 6, 2010; Story here)
About the Partnership for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. For more information, please visit