Medicines on the web - Risks and benefits
The global nature of the Internet makes it an excellent way to promote health. But it can also give misleading information or be used to market harmful health care products. To a lot of consumers, the Internet means low prices, discounts, privacy, and access for people living in remote places or who want first access to new products.
There are countless illegal offers of medicines on the Internet, many of them counterfeit. The World Health Organization estimates that in over 50 % of cases medicines purchased over the Internet from sites that conceal their physical address are counterfeit.
In 2010 the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes involving threats to public health (MEDICRIME Convention), the first international criminal law treaty to address this public health problem.
The convention provides a framework for sanctions, victim protection and national and international co-operation, and considers the use of the Internet to distribute counterfeit medical products to be an aggravating circumstance. It is open for signature by any country in the world. The Council of Europe is encouraging states all over the world to accede to the Convention, which was opened for signature in Moscow on 28 October 2011.
The MEDICRIME Convention criminalises:
- the manufacturing of counterfeit medical products;
- supplying, offering to supply and trafficking in counterfeit medical products;
- the falsification of documents;
- the manufacturing, the keeping in stock for supply, importing, exporting, supplying, offering to supply or placing on the market of medicinal products without authorisation or medical devices without being in compliance with the conformity requirements.
- Committee of Ministers Resolution on good practices for distributing medicines via mail order (2007);
- Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the impact of information technologies on health care – the patient and Internet (2004);
- Committee of Ministers Resolution on the pharmacist’s role in the framework of health security (2001).