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NABP, Pfizer ally in battle against counterfeit drugs
September 30th, 2011
NEW YORK – The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and Pfizer Inc. have teamed up to combat the sale of counterfeit prescription medicines and help patients learn how to safely buy medicines online.
Under an educational initiative announced Thursday, NABP and Pfizer said they aim to highlight the dangers of purchasing counterfeit medications and help consumers legitimate online pharmacies.
The campaign will use five channels to reach consumers online:
• A new YouTube channel will offer a video series that features experts from Pfizer, NABP, Microsoft and McAfee. The video series can be found at www.youtube.com/spotfakemeds.
• The NABP website www.AWARERx.org offers consumers information about the dangers of counterfeit medicines and tips on how to select an online pharmacy from which to safely buy medicine.
• Pfizer's website for the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra, www.Viagra.com, will include additional patient-education resources, including the "Anatomy of a Fake Website" and the "Spot the Fake" quiz, which educate patients on the gimmicks counterfeiters use to trick them into buying fake medicines. Viagra (sildenafil citrate) tablets are among the most commonly counterfeited medicines.
• Online advertising will reach patients at the critical moment when they are searching for popular keywords, such as "buy Viagra" and "cheap Viagra." When users click on Pfizer's ads, they will be taken to the Viagra YouTube channel to view educational videos about the dangers of counterfeit medicines and how to safely buy prescription medicines online.
• Takeovers of websites once used by counterfeiters to sell fake Pfizer medicines will be implemented by Pfizer Global Security. To reach potential buyers, Pfizer will repopulate these sites with facts about the dangers of counterfeit medicines and ways to determine if online pharmacies are legitimate.
"Counterfeiters who sell fake medicines online prey on ingrained online buying behavior, in which consumers disregard warning signs, and prioritize price and convenience," stated Carmen Catizone, NABP executive director. "As a result, counterfeiters sell fake medicines through deceptive practices and typically don't insist that patients provide a valid prescription, which is required by law."
Global sales of counterfeit medicines were estimated at more than $75 billion last year, up 90% since 2005, Pfizer and NABP reported. Last year, one in six Americans purchased medicines on the Internet, potentially exposing them to harmful counterfeits.
Exposure to counterfeit medicines can have serious consequences because they might include dangerous substances or they do not include the correct Food and Drug Administration-approved amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient, Pfizer and NABP noted.
"Authentic prescription medicines are manufactured with pure ingredients in clean facilities under a highly-regulated, quality-controlled process, but counterfeit medicines are often produced in unsanitary conditions by people without any medical or scientific background," explained Patrick Ford, senior director of global security for the Americas at Pfizer. "Law enforcement officials have found fake medicines being made in bathrooms and outdoors in the vicinity of farm animals."
A recent review by NABP of more than 8,000 websites selling prescription medicines found that 96% appeared to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. Besides facing health risks, patients who buy medicines from illegitimate online pharmacies are subject to financial fraud and identity theft when they share their credit card and other personal information with criminal counterfeiting networks.
"Counterfeiters have good reason to fool patients into buying fake medicines online," noted Ford. "They have no consideration whatsoever for patient health and safety, and the risks of prosecution are lower than those associated with selling illegal drugs. Counterfeiters are adept at producing fake medicines that look authentic and developing websites that look like legitimate online pharmacies. Consumers, though, can outsmart counterfeiters, as long as they know what to look for."
The FDA advises that websites with NABP's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal are licensed pharmacies from which patients can purchase FDA-approved medicines. A list of U.S.-based online pharmacies with VIPPS accreditation can be found at www.VIPPSpharmacies.net.
"We believe this joint effort with Pfizer will inform consumers about the dangers of counterfeit medicines and help them find legitimate websites and pharmacies licensed by the state boards of pharmacy that provide medicines approved by the FDA," NABP's Catizone added. "Together, we hope to lessen the dangers related to purchasing medicines online."