Yesterday, the Partnership for Safe Medicines - of which PhRMA is one of many members - held a congressional briefing to discuss the threat of rogue online pharmacies to patients in America.
Featuring the partnership's vice president along with representatives from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the briefing emphasized the need for all components of the pharmaceutical supply chain to work together to protect patients.
Otherwise, patients are subjected to the threat of fake medicines with little or no active ingredient. According to PSM: "They are not real pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, nor are their products regulated by the FDA. These criminal enterprises usually reside in countries with little ability to enforce fraud and counterfeiting laws."
Quite simply, they put patients at risk in order to make money.
The speakers made some recommendations on how patients can save money while ensuring that the medicines they purchase online are safe and reliable.
First, when purchasing medicines online, choose VIPPS-certified (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) online pharmacy. VIPPS pharmacies are certified by the NABP and can be found here
Second, check with various independent online services that allow patients to comparison shop for the best prices among VIPPS-certified pharmacies.
Third, check with the Partnership for Prescription Assistance
to find out if there is help available for you to get the medicines you need for free or nearly free from patient assistance programs. Biopharmaceutical company-sponsored assistance programs often provide medicine directly to patients who qualify for such programs, ensuring that the supply chain is secure.
Coincidentally, the National Press Club hosted a same-day forum on the threat of counterfeit products to public health and safety. Featuring representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Pfizer and Eaton Corp., the forum called for heightened awareness and increased collaboration among stakeholders.
According to DHS, U.S. Customs officials in 2009 confiscated nearly $261 million worth of counterfeit products. "Safety and security items" - defined by DHS as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and electrical products - accounted for 13 percent of what had been seized.
Yesterday's events certainly create an echo chamber about the dangers associated with counterfeit products, but also remind us that we can take steps to protect ourselves.