The United States government is cracking down on the sale of drugs over the internet without prescriptions, the BBC reported Dec. 17.
Researchers estimate that about one in every six Americans, or 36 million people, have used unlicensed online pharmacies to buy drugs. The initiative — said to be part of an Obama administration plan to address counterfeit medicines — aims to shut down illegal online pharmacies and raise awareness that their products are not safe.
“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, an intellectual property enforcement coordinator.
Partners in the initiative include Google; online-payment processors like Visa and PayPal; and online hosting companies like Network Solutions. The companies will target illegal web pharmacies by shutting down web sites, blocking ads and payments. They will also work with law enforcement and underwrite public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the risks of buying prescription drugs online.
Two organizations — the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies — will research why so many Americans have used online drug stores, what they purchase, and why some perceptions of the risk involved vary so widely.