Global effort needed to curb illicit web trade in pharmaceuticals, UN experts told

15 April 2005 – Serious national and international efforts are urgently needed to counter the illicit trade of pharmaceutical drugs through the Internet to prevent an increasing risk of misuse by children and adolescents as well as to protect individual consumers and public health, a meeting attended by United Nations experts has been warned.

Goods sold by illegal Internet pharmacies are either illegally manufactured or diverted from the licit distribution chain, and the pharmacies do not check the prescription or else provide one without questions, according to the experts gathered by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) this week in Vienna.

The INCB is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of UN drug conventions. Its 13 members serve in their personal capacity, but they are elected by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and their work is financed by the UN.

The experts found that the illicit sale through the Internet relied on sophisticated networks which work together closely, such as owners of illegal Internet pharmacy websites and the suppliers of illicitly traded goods. They called for the creation of an international network of national agencies working together to counteract global and cross-border activities of illegal internet pharmacies.

In many countries, almost everybody has access to the Internet and is using it and this makes everybody a potential customer and a potential victim of illegal Internet pharmacies, they warned. As the pharmacies will not verify information on name and age, vulnerable groups such as children and adolescents, as well as those involved in drug trafficking such as drug addicts and dealers, can obtain whatever they want with more ease than in the conventional illicit street market.

Attendees included representatives from international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the international police organization Interpol, the Council of Europe, national authorities, professional associations and industries such as the International Federation of Pharmacists, major data-carrier and Internet service providers, and credit card companies.

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