From today, all legitimate online pharmacies and medicine retailers operating in the European Union (EU) must display the logo under the Falsified Medicines Directive.
Any sites not displaying the logo are not operating within the law.
When clicked, the logo – which features the flag of the country where the pharmacy is registered – links patients to the website of the relevant national competent authority where a list of legitimate pharmacies is maintained.
EC spokesman Enrico Brivio told us the purpose of the logo is “to allow consumers to make informed decisions and allow the many people who wanted to buy from legitimate sources to do so securely.”
Brivio added said that making sure lists of legitimate pharmacies are up to date and secure is the responsibility of national authorities.
“The practical implementation of the logo is also carried out nationally and it is the responsibility of the Member States to use the appropriate technology and cryptographic tools to ensure that their sites and registries cannot be hacked.”
He added that member States are expected to run awareness raising activities on the common logo.
Speaking when plans for the logo were outlined last year, Tonio Borg, then European Commissioner for Health, said: "When buying medicines online, consumers must be aware that unless they buy from legally-operating online medicine suppliers, they run the risk of buying medicines that are falsified.
“Falsified medicines can be ineffective, harmful or even deadly. The Commission has established a common logo for online pharmacies so consumers can stay safe" he added.
Since then online pharmacies are a major target for authorities trying to combat the sale of fake pharmaceuticals.
In addition to being a threat to patient health, illegal online pharmacies also fund organised crime according to Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, which last year coordinated the seizure of millions of euros worth of fake drugs imported from Asia.
At the time Europol told us the operation targeted an “organised crime group behind the supply and online distribution of counterfeit medicines – mainly erectile dysfunction pills – and their money laundering activities.”