Educating Patients and Doctors on the Dangers of Counterfeit Medicines

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Life Science Leader recently ran a four-part series looking into the current state of the counterfeit medicines problem. The final article focused on organizations, including the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM), that are working to educate the public and keep counterfeit medicines from hurting people.

Dr. Marv Shepherd, president of the PSM and professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Pharmacy, said, “I see improvement in industry efforts to stop counterfeiters, but I don’t see improvement in results.” Dr. Shepherd believes that the global use of unique identifiers, which is expected in the next few years, will combat pharmaceutical crime at all levels of the supply chain, but more will still need to be done. He said that pharmaceutical crime is here to stay and an emerging technology that marks individual pills may be the answer.

Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) started as a loose coalition but grew into what is now a nonprofit dedicated to protecting consumers around the world, enabling access to safe medications, and combating illegal online drug sellers. They work to educate the public about the possible dangers of buying from an online pharmacy.  ASOP Global recognizes that the risk is greater than not knowing what you will be getting. A person is not just endangering their physical health when they purchase medications from rogue online pharmacies; they open themselves up to becoming a victim of identity theft or unknowingly funding organized crime and terrorists.

Rogue online pharmacies work hard to make their websites appear legitimate, and this is where the work of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) comes in. NABP is a nonprofit association that protects public health by assisting its member boards of pharmacy and offers programs that promote safe pharmacy practices for the benefit of consumers. They run many different programs, but the programs that provide the most benefit to members of the public are their Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program for certification of online pharmacies and as the registry operator for the .pharmacy top-level domain (TLD). The VIPPS certification seal tells consumers that the particular online pharmacy they are looking at is legitimate and only pharmacies that meet NABP standards and international pharmacy laws can receive a .pharmacy domain.