The problem of counterfeit medicines has always been a concern. Bona fide medicines quite rightly go through rigorous testing every step of the way to ensure that patient safety is protected. And the supply chain from manufacturers through to wholesalers, pharmacists, and doctors is a carefully regulated one.
Buying prescription medicines without a prescription is obviously a dangerous practice – it is quite simply gambling with one’s health, taking a risk that should not be taken.
But there is another issue here too. What about people who have followed the correct procedure, seen their GP or a health professional, been diagnosed and given a prescription, which they then choose to buy over the internet? This is becoming more common as consumer choice widens and the world gets smaller.
Which is why the ABPI strongly supports forthcoming European legislation to counteract this serious threat to patient health and the pharmaceutical supply chain. This legislation will include provisions for the accreditation by member states of internet pharmacies.
Within the UK there is already such a scheme overseen by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) – only Internet pharmacies that display the green cross logo denoting registration with this scheme should be used. And even then, it is always wise to check with the GPhC that any site using this logo is indeed registered with the Council.
Looking ahead, the new legislation will require each pack manufactured by a company to carry a code which will uniquely identify that pack and which can be used to verify the authenticity of the pack at the point of supply. Again, ABPI and the European pharmaceutical industry fully support this initiative and will be working with regulators and other stakeholders to establish at the earliest possible date a practical system for its implementation.
Richard BarkerFormer Director General of the ABPI