In speeches and writings about online pharmacies, many experts and professionals in the pharmaceutical and U.S. pharmacy industries cite data from the World Health Organization (WHO) claiming that 50% of drugs sold on the Internet are counterfeit. A recent example is an article published last week in US Pharmacist. This statistic is often offered as “evidence” that all online pharmacies, particularly outside the U.S., are dangerous. However, the WHO’s information is often misused and the statistic’s factual basis is questionable.
The actual WHO statistic is that in “50% of cases, medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been found to be counterfeit.” WHO goes onto qualify this statement, noting that “Some Internet pharmacies are legal operations, established to offer clients convenience and savings. They deliver medications from government-licensed facilities and sell only on the basis of a prescription.” This is a critical point which we have made many times on this blog, but is commonly omitted by those whose work is backed by the pharmaceutical and U.S. pharmacy industries.
The research behind the statistic itself is dubious, and, in fact, does not appear to be the WHO. Through industry sources we have learned that this “WHO statistic” is based on Pfizer’s research on buying just one drug, Viagra, online.
For the record, I’m a big supporter of the WHO. As the UN’s central health agency, the WHO is charged with tackling major global health crises and issues through its programs, policy development and publications. It has played the leading role in working to eradicate polio, tackle HIV/AIDS, halting deadly epidemics, among other humanitarian triumphs in global health.
Counterfeit drugs are a worldwide problem, including their sale in licensed pharmacies within the U.S. and by rogue online pharmacies. Consumers need to be properly educated so that they don’t fall victim to counterfeit drugs. National and international law enforcement bodies must continue and improve their efforts to catch the bad guys. However, misuse of research, particularly dubious research, does not serve the cause of public health or justice.Tagged with: consumers, Counterfeit Drugs, Internet, Pfizer, United States, Viagra, World Health Organization