Thirty-Six Million Americans Have Bought Medications Online Without a Doctor’s Prescription

Research about Dangerous Practice – and the 11 Internet Commerce Companies Partnering Together to Protect Patients – Announced as Part of White House Forum

Washington, D.C. – Illegal online drug sellers have provided tens of millions of Americans prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription, recent research has found.  These rogue sellers have preyed upon thirty six million people, or 1 in 6 Americans, exposing them to the potential of taking counterfeit and unapproved medications. The proliferation of illegal online drug sellers offering medication without a prescription has prompted major online commerce companies to take action to curb this dangerous practice.

The information was released today from The Partnership at Drugfree.org at the White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum.  The research was funded by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), of which The Partnership at Drugfree.org is a member.

“Those who sell prescription drugs online without a valid prescription are operating illegally, undercutting the laws that were put in place to protect patients, and are thereby endangering the public health,” said Victoria Espinel, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC). “It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior.

At the Summit, Espinel announced that 11 companies have come together voluntarily to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by targeting illegal online drug sellers. The companies include American Express, eNom, Inc., Go Daddy, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, Neustar, Network Solutions, PayPal, Visa and Yahoo!.

“The announced collaboration is a huge win for public health, and marks the first time that so many Internet commerce stakeholders have worked together on a comprehensive solution to address the rogue online drug sellers posing as Internet pharmacies,” commented Libby Baney, an advisor at B&D Consulting who counsels the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP).  “ASOP joins the IPEC in applauding the voluntary action by these 11 companies, and we look forward to working with these leading organizations to ensure patients have access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies.”

In June, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress a strategic plan to combat intellectual property theft, including the production and sale of counterfeit medications.  Since that time the IPEC has been working to increase cooperation between the government and the private sector to protect consumers from counterfeit medications sold on the Internet by illegal online drug sellers.

“The abuse of prescription medications is one of the most troubling public health problems in our country today,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.  “Parents and policy makers alike need to be concerned about how easy it is to order these potentially ‘abusable’ drugs online.  We support efforts to take the steps necessary to shut down rogue sites and encourage patients to safeguard medications and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed.”

All legitimately operating, state-licensed pharmacies, whether they have a physical location or are found online, sell only FDA-approved medication and only with a prescription. Unlike legitimate pharmacies that offer consumers the option of ordering doctor-prescribed medications over the Internet, rogue Internet drug sellers pose as legitimate websites that offer prescription medicine for sale without a prescription.  This makes it all too easy for people to unknowingly obtain potentially dangerous fake, substandard, or unapproved drugs.

“More than 95% of Internet organic search results yield illicit websites that offer to sell unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicine, mostly without a prescription,” said Jeannie Salo, Director of Global Anti-Counterfeiting, International Government Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company, an ASOP member.  “The data announced at the White House today show that millions of Americans are putting their health at risk with online purchases by bypassing the laws – like the valid prescription requirement – that were put in place to protect patients,” added John Horton, President of LegitScript, a member of the ASOP.

“Consumers need to understand that the products they receive from Internet drug sellers are often not the same, FDA-approved medicine that they could get from a legitimate pharmacy. Products sold on rogue websites may be ineffective, harmful or worse” added Baney.  “The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies plans to procure additional research to gain insights into why consumers buy online, what kinds of medicines they buy, and why some consumers perceive the risks while others don’t.  We are eager to partner with the 11 Internet commerce companies announced today who have agreed to take a stand against this public health threat.”

The research regarding drug purchasing habits was conducted via telephone survey among a national probability sample of 1,015 adults. Interviewing for this CARAVAN® Survey was completed during the period of November 4-7, 2010.  The margin of error is +/- 3%.

About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies: www.safeonlinerx.com

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is committed to helping to protect patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with U.S. laws.  Other members of ASOP include the American Pharmacists Association, Eli Lilly and Company, LegitScript, Merck, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and NeedyMeds.

About The Partnership at Drugfree.org

The Partnership at Drugfree.org is a nonprofit organization that helps parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children.  Bringing together renowned scientists, parent experts, and communications professionals, this public health nonprofit translates current research on parenting, teen behavior, addiction and treatment into easy to understand resources at drugfree.org. Through its nationwide PACT360 community education programs, The Partnership at Drugfree.org educates and mobilizes local community efforts to address drug threats at the grassroots level, including methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse, and also provides parent training and teen programs that help prevent teen substance abuse.  The Partnership at Drugfree.org depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and government and is thankful to SAG/AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity.

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