Using IPR Tools to Promote Safe Online Pharmacies

Commercial Attaché Michael Rogers on a panel during the Global Forum on Access to Safe Medicines
Commercial Attaché Michael Rogers on a panel during the Global Forum on Access to Safe Medicines

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak at the Global Forum on Access to Safe Medicines in London. The event brought together pharmaceutical companies, companies that provide anti-counterfeiting technology, law enforcement, regulatory agencies from around the world, NGOs, patient groups, and academics to discuss how to protect people from substandard or counterfeit medicines. I spoke briefly about the efforts underway in the Transatlantic IPR Working Group to contribute to this effort.

One of the most exciting and rewarding parts of my job as a Commercial Attaché is to encourage cooperation between the U.S. and EU on a wide range of trade issues that impact both of us. One area in which we cooperate very closely is on intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, including combating trade in counterfeit goods. The U.S. and EU are now using the Transatlantic IPR Working Group to focus attention on of promoting safe online pharmacies.

The U.S. and EU both recognize that many websites are purporting to sell legitimate pharmaceutical products, often at very discount price, and that the products they are selling are often substandard and/or counterfeit. In fact, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) says that at any one time roughly 40,000 websites are pushing counterfeit or illegitimate medicines to U.S. consumers. As someone who relies on an online pharmacy to supply me with the medications I need, efforts to ensure that I am not duped into purchasing counterfeit or substandard medicine are of personal interest to me.

Because many of these products use counterfeit trademarks as part of their deception, the Transatlantic IPR Working Group is looking at ways to support the efforts of government, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and pharmaceutical firms, and is also examining how to build the capacity of our trading partners so they can help us stop the flow of these goods into the United States and Europe. My hope was that by participating in the Global Forum, I could encourage others to think of how tools used to combat trademark counterfeiting can be used to promote safe online pharmacies.

For more on the Transatlantic IPR Working Group, visit www.StopFakes.gov. To learn more about other efforts, check out The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies and The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacy.

By Michael Rogers, Commercial Attaché

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