FDA and NABP Mobilize to Confront the Online Sale of Illegal Drugs

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Governmental and nongovernmental action taken to discourage illegal pharmaceutical sales over the Internet.

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), a professional pharmaceutical organization, have recently taken steps to deter online distribution of counterfeit and illegal drugs.

In response to the thousands of illegal drugs distributed over the Internet, the FDA recently released a guidance document urging manufacturers of such drugs to obtain FDA approval or withdraw their products from the market. The guidance emphasizes the FDA’s focus on unsafe, ineffective and deceptively marketed drugs and sets forth factors for enforcement.  The document also notes that the FDA can commence immediate enforcement of unapproved drugs on the market without providing notice.

Similarly, the NABP has partnered with Pfizer to launch a collaborative initiative to educate patients about online pharmaceutical sales and regulation. Pfizer’s press release notes that in 2010, worldwide sales of counterfeit drugs topped $75 million and that 1 in 6 Americans purchased medicine over the Internet. This nongovernmental public education initiative will develop Internet resources such as a YouTube series as well as websites designed to help consumers make safe purchases online.

Both the FDA’s and NABP’s efforts coincided with the fourth annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), an event held recently under the sponsorship of INTERPOL, with the goal of reducing the online distribution of counterfeit and illegal drugs. The event resulted in $6.3 million in illegal drugs seized, 55 people arrested or investigated, and approximately 13,500 websites terminated.