The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly UpdateJune 14, 2010
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Microsoft and Yahoo Announce Changes to Online Advertising of Pharmaceuticals

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) commends mainstream search engines Microsoft and Yahoo for their recent decision requiring U.S. pharmaceutical advertisers to be accredited by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program in order to advertise online.

Google was the first engine to require pharmaceutical advertisers to be VIPPS-accredited, a move the PSM commended and encouraged other search engines to emulate.

The changes will place a much-needed barrier between rogue Internet pharmacies and unwitting consumers, said PSM Vice President Bryan Liang, MD, PhD, JD.

"Last year, my research group published the first study identifying the patient safety risks of buying from search engine-sponsored online drug sellers that used suspect third party "verification" services that did little to ensure patient safety," said Dr. Liang. "Confirming our work, other assessments have found that 80 to 90 percent of search engine-sponsored online pharmacies violated federal and state laws-including the sale of substandard and counterfeit drugs and addictive controlled substances without a prescription," said Liang. "We believe that online pharmacies need to follow the same rules as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and this is a significant step toward mitigating the threat of unsafe medicines available for purchase online."

Scott LaGanga, PSM's executive director, agreed adding, "This is a major turning point in the arena of Internet pharmacies, one that will help make the online marketplace safer for Americans."

When asked to comment, Carmen Catizone, the executive director of the National Association of Boards Pharmacy (NABP), which created the VIPPS program, voiced enthusiasm over the changes.

"This change among major search engines is a significant win for patient safety," said Catizone. "VIPPS-accredited websites are important resources for consumers and will help them make informed choices about where to purchase medications."

The new requirements will also have an impact on illicit drug sellers. "We'll see rogue websites adversely affected by these changes through a loss of business," added Catizone. "However, we need to dedicate more funds to regulatory agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) so that they are better equipped to prevent illicit pharmaceutical products from entering the supply system."

Echoing these sentiments, LaGanga noted that "Criminals selling counterfeit or unapproved drugs online are beyond the reach of FDA regulators and investigators. We're in need of resources, as well as new legislation that prohibits financial transactions for drug sales of unlicensed online pharmacies, and creates substantive penalties for any party that engages in the illegal sale of counterfeit and contraband drugs."
Top News

Profitability of Counterfeit Drugs Necessitates Improved Prevention Techniques


Scott LaGanga, director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, says that consumers often trust the supply chain to deliver an authentic product, yet in much of the developing world this trust could be broken because it's become so profitable to distribute, sell, and manufacture counterfeit drugs. Nigeria's government is fighting to keep consumers' trust using mobile phone technology. "We have developed a technology which makes it easy for consumers to authenticate medication at the point of purchase. There is a scratch panel - just like a lottery ticket with number on the drug - each drug has a different number. When you buy a drug, you scratch the panel, you send a text message with the number that you see, and you get a response instantly at the counter if the drug is genuine or fake," said Ashifi Gogo, who heads the phone company. ("Counterfeit Medicines Grow as Global Threat," Voice of America, June 7, 2010; Story here)

World News

Customs Officers From Around the Globe Unite to Fight Counterfeit Drugs


Counterfeit drugs have become a $200-billion-a-year industry and the 176-nation World Customs Organization (WCO) will sign a declaration later this month to fight the scourge, an official said on Thursday. On June 24, 176 national customs chiefs will sign a declaration to ban the making and marketing of counterfeit drugs. "We have more fakes than real drugs in the market," said Christophe Zimmermann, the WCO's anti-counterfeiting and piracy coordinator. Western Europeans spend an estimated 10.5 billion euros ($14.3 billion) a year on illicitly sourced medicines. In a sign Europe is taking the issue seriously too, justice ministers on the Council of Europe are set to ratify a convention on counterfeit drugs in Istanbul this November. ("Customs group to fight $200 Bln Bogus Drug Industry," Reuters, June 10, 2010; Story here)



Taiwan: Anti-Drug Task Force Leads to Increase in Counterfeit Drug Cases


The number of cases in May involving the illegal sale of counterfeit drugs increased significantly after the formation of a Cabinet anti-drug task force in April, Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang said Thursday. In May, the number of illegal drug cases averaged 204 per week and 96 were referred to law enforcement agencies. This was a sharp increase from April when drug cases averaged 48 cases per week and 11 were referred to law enforcement authorities. Most of the illegal drugs seized were weight-loss products, lifestyle drugs and anti-inflammatory painkillers. ("Illegal Drug Cases Increase After Formation of Task Force: DOH," Focus Taiwan, June 10, 2010; Story here)


5th Global Pharma Manufacturing Summit

When: Monday, Jun 14, 2010

Where: Boston, MA

Description: Link here


Global Pharma Authentication

When: Monday, Jun 14, 2010

Where: Munich, Germany

Description: Link here


4th Annual Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeiting Strategies Conference

When: Tuesday, Sep 7, 2010

Where: London, UK

Description: Link here

PSM's Inaugural 2010 Interchange
When: Friday, Oct 8, 2010
Where: Washington, D.C.
Description: The Partnership for Safe Medicines invites you to save the date for an intimate conference bringing together patient groups, providers, pharmaceutical company quality experts, enforcement personnel, policymakers, regulatory agency experts and other interested parties to discuss key issues around counterfeit drugs andother unsafe medicines. Link 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