Google, PayPal, others target counterfeiting pharmacies

An organization set up last year by some of the largest Internet and credit card companies to fight the scourge of illegal pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs thinks consumers just don't get it.

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), which counts Google ($GOOG), Microsoft and Godaddy, as well as PayPal, American Express, MasterCard and Visa among its members, says it will partner with regulators worldwide to identify illegal Internet pharmacies. It also is launching a public education campaign, with a video, hoping to teach consumers that they are putting themselves at risk of getting fake drugs when they deal with some online pharmacies.

"According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), 96 percent of all online pharmacies are operating illegally, out of compliance with U.S. laws that protect the public health," says CSIP Executive Director Marjorie Clifton. "Most consumers are unaware of this fact and more importantly are unaware of the dangers associated with purchasing these drugs."

In a Kumbaya moment, the effort was supported by four international pharmaceutical trade associations and the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), which is made up of drugmakers and nonprofits and associations. The four trade associations lauding the move are the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and Japanese Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (JPMA).

This is the first time the CSIP, which was formed last  year, has said what it plans to do. "These companies have the unique ability to curb this growing public health threat," says William Reid, senior director for global anti-counterfeiting operations at Eli Lilly ($LLY).

The education campaign is being launched even as regulators around the world are investigating how fake Avastin made its way into the drug supply chain and then into physician clinics. U.S. authorities in February alerted the public that fake versions of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin, which contained no active ingredients and so were of no medical benefit, had been discovered in the U.S. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal finds that companies tied to Kris Thorkelson, the owner of the popular website, were the sources of the counterfeit Avastin, which was acquired by 76 clinics in 22 states. The investigation into where the Avastin originated and how it made it into the U.S. is ongoing and neither Thorkelson nor his companies have been charged in the case.

- here's the release
- here's the WSJ story
- here's the video

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