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Rogue Sites Dangerous to Consumers Buying Prescription Medication Online
Author:  Paul Hortenstine
Date:  11/11/2011

An opinion piece in the Washington Times shows just how dangerous rogue sites are to consumers purchasing medicine online and it urges passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act to help curb the trafficking in tainted medicine.  Millions of Americans enjoy the convenience of purchasing prescription medicines over the Internet.   They search online for a pharmacy that will fill and mail their prescription.  However, they are often taking advantage of by rogue sites that appear to be legitimate.  These sites knowingly sell counterfeit drugs and tainted medicine that has unfortunately led to debilitating sickness and even death. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate have bipartisan support and will help target rogue sites profiting from counterfeit medicine and stolen creative content like books, movies and music.  The legislation will also preserve the 2.2 million American jobs of people who work in the television and film industry. 

In the Washington Times article, Libby Baney of the Alliance of Safe Online Pharmacies writes that rogue sites have affected her family:

“In December 2009, my sister Ali decided to refill her supply of allergy medication, a drug she had taken for years, by using what she assumed was a legitimate Internet site. On Christmas Eve, after taking the drug, she became violently ill and suffered intense migraine headaches. Ali had thought she was buying her usual prescription medication. Unfortunately, her trusted medicine is not what she received.  After Ali recovered, she learned that the website she used did not meet the rigorous Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accreditation standards put in place by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).”

And the money used to purchase medication on these rogue sites often goes to fund organized crime:

“The Internet allows these illegitimate online drug sellers to operate without much fear of consequences. The small packages of fake drugs are often shipped through three or four locations, masking their true origin and making them hard to track or control. Even more chilling is that these rogue drug sites often trace back to complex organized criminal networks that are manufacturing unregulated and dangerous medicines and are knowingly peddling these dangerous drugs to consumers around the world. Rogue Internet drug sites are often a major source of funds for criminal networks.”

Rogue sites also enable people who buy medication without a prescription:

“Recent research conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans - 36 million people - purchase prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription. When consumers purchase from a website that does not adhere to U.S. law governing the use of prescriptions, they bypass all the protections put in place to protect them; namely, that the medicines are safe and have been prescribed by a physician, and that the prescription has been dispensed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist in a licensed U.S. pharmacy.”

Baney urges passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act to help target these rogue sites: 

“The bill addresses a number of important intellectual-property issues. It also helps protect consumers against the public health threat of illicit sales of medications online. The bill encourages private companies to stop doing business with illegal online drug sellers that endanger public health. Included are companies that host these sites, provide associated advertising or help facilitate their payment transactions. If enacted, this legislation could help shut down the worst-of-the-worst rogue Internet drug sellers.”

Counterfeit products on rogue sites are also a danger to the military.  This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on its investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense supply chain.  The defense industry is very susceptible to counterfeit parts because many defense systems rely on electronic parts that are no longer produced by the original manufacturer.   Defense contractors purchase replacement parts from independent sellers, often over the Internet.

In March, the committee began an investigation into the defense supply chain—including defense contractors and subcontractors—about the unknowing purchase of counterfeit components for such things as aircraft and missile systems, often through the Internet.  So far, it has found over 1 million suspect counterfeit electronic parts that were purchased.   More than 70% of the counterfeit parts originated in China.