Education Needed on Potential Dangers of Buying Drugs Online

The growth of online e-commerce platforms has significantly fueled the proliferation of counterfeit goods on the internet. Not surprisingly, this trend has also led to a surge in imitation pharmaceutical products sold online. A report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in March 2019 revealed that drugs are the tenth most counterfeited product traded online, which one source valued at between $70 to $200 billion USD. With so much at stake, brand protection in the pharma industry has become a critical aspect of the industry’s online strategy.

How the Internet Creates Easy Pathways to Counterfeit Drugs

With the advent of the internet, patients can now acquire their medication with just a few clicks of the mouse. Not only is this extremely convenient, but patients are also able to shop for the best deals. At times, this allows them to bypass regional pricing structures of certain drugs. Patients also have access to generic drugs that are sold at prices considerably lower than patented and trademarked ones found at local pharmacies and dispensaries.

However, these advantages come with potentially life-threatening consequences. Since the online marketplace is loosely regulated, patients are completely reliant on the honesty and goodwill of the sellers. Alas, unlicensed sellers are often in the business for money, and the products they sell tend to be fake products that provide them with significantly higher profit. Even when buyers are aware of the counterfeit nature of the product, they sometimes willingly purchase them as they are convinced that the illicit drugs are virtually identical to the original.

Negative Impacts of Counterfeit Drugs

Substandard and falsified medicine poses a great hazard to patients. The composition of such drugs is unknown. In most cases, the ingredients and doses used are different from the original – and the active ingredients may even be missing.

Affected patients may unwittingly blame resulting complications on pharmaceutical companies. A few patients might even pursue legal action. While such claims can be easily dealt with in courts, these will inevitably consume the resources of companies. In addition, the loss of revenue can impact profits and affect investments in research and development. Cumulatively, these outcomes will hurt the brand and reputation of companies which took years, even decades, to build.

Moreover, every cent earned by unscrupulous online pharmacies could help them to expand their illegal activities further.

Tackling the Scourge of Online Counterfeit Drug Sales

The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken a proactive approach to countering the spread of falsified medicines. In 2013, the organisation launched the Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS), which is designed to quickly identify incidences of falsified and substandard medical products.

An equally important strategy is educating the general public. All stakeholders, including pharma companies, must increase the public’s awareness of the inherent risks of consuming medication purchased from the internet. This strategy can be tailored to indirectly strengthen pharmaceutical brands by highlighting the quality and legitimacy of their product range.

Efforts must also be made to help governments, especially in developing countries, to improve cybercrime legislation. Law enforcement agencies should be provided with legislative authority to compel web providers, such as domain registrars and web hosting companies, to take down online pharmacies.

While these approaches may not resolve the issue overnight, they can slam the brakes on the sector’s explosive growth.


These kind of worrying figures is exactly why Yellow Brand Protection created the #ImForReal initiative; to spread awareness about the dangers of counterfeits because the pharmaceutical industry is just one of many that is impacted. Join us and help spread the campaign for "A Cleaner Internet. A Better Society.".


More on Brand Protection:

Our Services - Anti-Counterfeiting

Counterfeit Drugs and How to Stop Them

#ImForReal - Take a stand against the market of counterfeit goods

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