Future of internet pharmacy at stake

The ALDE group is increasingly concerned about patient safety in the context of internet pharmacy. At a seminar yesterday afternoon on this issue at the European Parliament, members of the Liberal and Democrat Group discussed, together with external experts, patients and consumer groups, as well as health professionals, concrete policy recommendations for future action in this field.

The supply of medicines via the Internet is an area of growing concern to health practitioners, patients and policy makers alike. Patients have no assurance as to the safety and appropriateness of medicines supplied online. The absence of direct contact with a pharmacist to give advice and guidance leads to a potential misuse of pharmaceutical products by patients, and therefore put their health at risk. Effective action to enhance and enforce controls must be prioritised.

Antonya Parvanova Antonyia PARVANOVA (NDSV, Bulgaria), who co-organised the seminar, declared “Today, we are facing a large number of challenges such as the sale of counterfeit medicines via the Internet, e-prescription and e-consultation which could lead to serious risk for patients, or misleading information on disease management and treatment. Let’s make sure Internet opportunities, and the benefit it can bring in terms of health systems sustainability and disease management, are delivering concrete outcomes and are fully protecting patients.”

Patients and service-users have faced an explosion in easily accessible medical information in recent years with increased information available on the Internet. As in some cases such information on the internet is inaccurate and misleading,

Marian Harkin Marian HARKIN (Ireland), the other co-organiser of the seminar, pointed out: “With free movement of persons, there must be free movement of information. In order to help ensure patient safety I believe there should be mandatory sharing of information in regard to all Health professionals between the regulatory bodies in the different Member States.”

In addition to that, throughout the EU there has been a rise in the amount of incidents involving the supply of counterfeit medicines. Those have entered the legitimate supply chain in many EU Member States, and the internet is one of the major channels used by counterfeiters to sell their products illegally. This is a major threat to human health and requires action at both national and EU level to combat it.

Closing the meeting, HARKIN and PARVANOVA declared jointly: “We ask the European Commission to better focus on promoting information and awareness campaigns about e-pharmacy through its health programmes. Secondly, while there is a lack of legislation to regulate e-pharmacy, internet search engines like Google are invited to closer cooperate with the competent authorities for fighting against counterfeit medicines.”


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