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Counterfeit medicines

New logo a badge of authenticity for online pharmacies in EU

Visual Online Pharmacies Logo

Visual Online Pharmacies Logo

The European Commission has launched a logo for use by online pharmacies and companies selling non-prescription medicines to show customers that the site is legal.

The verification will allow an online pharmacy operating legally in the EU to link to the website of its country’s national regulator, which will display a list of legitimate pharmacy websites.

“When buying medicines online, consumers must be aware that unless they buy from legally-operating online medicine suppliers, they run a risk of buying medicines that are falsified. The commission has established a common logo for online pharmacies so consumers can stay safe,” explains Tonio Borg, the European Commissioner for Health.

The logo will be mandatory and regulation should come into force by the end of July 2014. Member states will then have one year to comply. The legislation underpinning establishment of the logo, the directive on falsified medicines (2011/62/EU), came into force in January 2013.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will be responsible for implementing the scheme and says it will discuss it with stakeholders.

Gareth Jones, public affairs manager at the National Pharmacy Association, says the NPA had conveyed its concerns to the commission that the logo should not be a green cross and was pleased this advice had been taken on board. “This would have implied that you’re accessing a pharmacy website under the supervision of a qualified pharmacist when, in fact, companies selling non-prescription medicines that are not pharmacies can use the logo too.” However, Jones warns that, because logos can be copied, they only provide a degree of protection against the dangers of counterfeit medicines. “It is important that we continue to seek to educate patients that have chosen to access medicines online about the need for vigilance,” he says.

A spokesperson for the General Pharmaceutical Council, which already operates an online pharmacy logo scheme, says it is developing new guidance for pharmacies supplying medicines online. “We support the commission’s desire to enable greater assurance and transparency to the public when purchasing medicinal products over the internet.”

Under the directive, member states will also be expected to conduct campaigns to raise awareness of the logo and the dangers of falsified medicines.

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065575

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