In a report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), experts warned authorities that an increasing number of illegal online pharmacies are selling potentially dangerous, or inactive counterfeit medication.
The board called on countries that have not implemented the UN’s ‘Guidelines for Governments on Preventing the Illegal Sale of Internationally Controlled Substances through the Internet’ to do so.
It said the guidelines will help governments to establish stronger ties with internet registrars, providers of hosting space, credit companies and search engine operators, therefore putting a stop to illegal online pharmacies.
“Governments should continue to implement the guidelines, improve international cooperation in that regard and provide technical assistance to countries requiring such assistance,” the board wrote.
The INCB also urged the 16 States that are not yet members of all of the international drug control treaties – Cook Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Holy See, Kiribati, Liberia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuat – to sign up.
It said the move would create a stronger network between governments globally.
A growing problem
The report follows a stream of counterfeit drugs headlines, including the recent distribution of a fake version of Genetech’s Avastin, which contained no API (active pharmaceutical ingredient).
And though many firms and governing bodies have made moves to prevent fakes hitting the market – for instance WHO (World Health Organisation) recently held a meeting in a bid to tackle the problem – the issue is still growing.
In the paper, the UN puts the growing problem down to an increasing number of patients who are driven to seek-out cheap meds online as a result of the current economic downfall.
“It is a problem that has gathered enormous momentum and that, with new technologies, including the internet, has found new means of increasing its influence and profitability,” the INCB wrote.
Echoing the report, the Australian government this week issued a statement warning against buying therapies over the internet.
However Catherine King, the parliamentary secretary for health and ageing, went one step further in saying that patients should avoid all online medicinal purchases.
She said the county’s TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) “scrutinises therapeutic products before they can legitimately enter the Australian market,” however cannot regulate products sold on international websites, warning they could put people at risk.