Will Google's $500 million fine for running ads from illegal online pharmacies reignite attention on the issue?
The media deserve credit for publicizing the dangers of illegal online drug sellers. 60 Minutes and others have shown the grave risks of buying from those who target US consumers to sell counterfeit, unsafe medications without a valid prescription. The recent focus on Google's efforts to turn the tide has raised visibility of this issue.
We appreciate Google's steps to rectify the ad activities of illegal online drug sellers, the Department of Justice's tenacity, and the White House initiative to bring together stakeholders to develop solutions.
How have the talking points about the hazards of online pharmacies evolved?
Begin with the obvious: the correct name for these predators. The problem is with "illegal online drug sellers," which is how we now refer to them. Before, illegal sites too often were called "online pharmacies." They are not licensed pharmacies. They sell drugs to consumers without the safety of a legitimate prescriber-patient relationship, a valid prescription, and a licensed US pharmacy and pharmacist. In contrast, US licensed pharmacies that operate online websites are legal and safe options.
To raise awareness of the difference, we work with patient advocates, pharmacies, state pharmacy boards, pharma companies, and public health organizations through the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies. Its website - www.safeonlinerx.com - emphasizes a classic PR tool: the "FAQ."
This messaging has rippled through vehicles of partners such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and The Partnership at www.drugfree.org, as well as through the media.
What are some other key upcoming initiatives?
We advocate for pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthcare, helping government and private payers leverage their value to improve health and reduce costs. Our association is sharing insights with the Congressional "super committee" about how pharmacies help to prevent costly forms of care, through helping patients take their medications correctly, vaccinations, health screenings, and education.
In ChecKmeds NC, a program in North Carolina, face-to-face pharmacist-patient interactions help patients adhere to their medication regimens, returning $13.55 for every $1 invested.