In a letter dated April 9th, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) has requested that the Vice President prioritize evidence-based messaging and focus energies on provable therapies for treating COVID-19. The letter also asks the Vice President to address the “systemic, structural Internet policy problems that enable COVID-19 scams online.”  

ASOP notes that although proven scientific treatments take time to develop, fraudulent treatments are easy to produce and disseminate. They call for the dismissal of pseudoscience and for the focus of treatment for COVID-19 be FDA-approved therapies. They also plead with the Vice President to repeat the information that “there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. Access to certain treatments is limited to those under FDA-approved Emergency Use Authorization or expanded access programs.”

As for changes to Internet policy, currently law enforcement, researchers, and others who could help identify online fraud actors are unable to conduct Whois web searches to determine the real culprits behind fake pharmacy websites hawking scam COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. ASOP points out that at present, there is no accountability in domain-name registry. Any bad actor has the ability to set up a fake pharmacy or #covidscam website and neither law enforcement nor patient groups have the ability to look and see who is really behind the site.  Pending legislation from Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) seeks to require such informational access, but as yet, such legislation has not passed.

Lastly, ASOP requests that Congress take action to require U.S.-based domain registrars to force COVID-19 scammers off the Internet.  Putting the onus on the registrars will free up much-needed enforcement resources for other areas.  

ASOP also provided Vice President Pence with a one-page information sheet that describes the explosion of COVID-19 scams on the Internet. Their COVID Scams and Domain Industry Accountability-Backgrounder points out that as COVID-19 has expanded exponentially, websites dedicated to defrauding and exploiting a nervous populace have sprung into being. At least 100,000 new domains using either “corona” or “virus” in their names were registered in the month of March alone. 

Organizations and Individuals that signed the letter to Vice President Mike Pence:
ACT | The App Association
Aimed Alliance
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global)
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacy in the EU
American Apparel & Footwear Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
AppDetex
BeMedWise Program at NeedyMeds
Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)
Bridge the Gap: SYNGAP Education & Research Foundation
Coalition for a Secure & Transparent Internet
Coalition for Online Accountability
Collaborative for CBD Science & Safety
Consumer Brands Association
Consumer Health Information Corporation
Council for Responsible Nutrition
CV Sciences
DomainTools
Eli Lilly and Company
Entertainment Industries Council, Inc.
Gilead Sciences
Global Brand Owner and Consumer Protection Coalition
International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition
KnujOn
Kroll
LegitScript
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors
National Association for Rural Mental Health
National Consumers League
National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance
NeedyMeds
Partnership for Safe Medicines
Professor Timothy K. Mackey
S-3 Research
The Gerontological Society of America
Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade
USP
Verisk Financial | G2
Young People in Recovery