Brussels Principles on Medication Sales over the Internet

On March 31st, KEI joined Prescription Justice, EFF, and Public Citizen at RightsCon 2017 to discuss the issues of sales of medication over the Internet. I was in attendance on KEI’s behalf; Gabe Levitt represented Prescription Justice; Jeremy Malcolm presented for EFF; and Burcu Kilic was there for Public Citizen. It was one of the few panels at RightsCon dedicated to medicines/health.

After the session, the panelists convened to draft an agreement on a series of overarching principles that may help guide policy and shape the conversation.

KEI’s views on importation of medicines are nuanced, and, in particular, focus on the benefits of regulating parallel trade to ensure safety of products, and, in a global system that uses high drug prices to induce investments in R&D, on the practical importance of limiting commercial scale parallel trade from lower income countries to higher income countries, in most circumstances.

KEI was pleased with the final draft (copied below) that addresses a number of issues important to consumers, and we are happy to announce our endorsement.

The Principles focus on the rights on individuals to use the Internet to order medications and have them delivered through the mail, particularly when patients have no other realistic options. Governments are also asked to identify and sanction online pharmacies that engage in the intentional sale of counterfeit and falsified medication, as defined by the World Health Organization, and to otherwise ensure that online pharmacies are a reliable and safe source of medications. The Principles also recognize “the need for policies that protect and facilitate affordability of drugs in countries with different incomes,” which is consistent with rules that place appropriate limits on commercial scale parallel trade from low income countries to higher income countries.

There is a web page for persons or groups interested in endorsing the petition here:

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/brussels-principles-medication-over-the-net

For group endorsements, please email jodi[at]prescriptionjustice[dot]org with the subject “Endorse Brussels Principles”.

Brussels Principles on Medication Sales over the Internet

Recognizing,

that the cost and local availability of medication is a global barrier to essential medical treatments for hundreds of millions of people;

that the Internet has served as a disruptive force to traditional industry in the practice of pharmacy and trade in pharmaceuticals, allowing for the ethical international sale of medications to patients;

that countries are neglecting their human rights obligations when their citizens do not have adequate access to affordable healthcare, including medication;

We affirm the following principles relating to the sale of medicine ordered for personal use on the Internet:

  • Access to affordable medications is an essential component to the fundamental human right to health.
  • Laws, regulations, and enforcement actions that impede online access to lower-priced, lawfully manufactured medication can be inimical to public health.
  • Consumers should be able to use the Internet to order and have delivered through the mail safe and affordable medications.
  • National laws can violate fundamental human rights when their effect prevents and, or, deters, citizens from importing medications for personal use who, because of cost or other access reasons, when patients have no other realistic options.
  • Countries, and international organizations to which they belong, should promote a competitive online marketplace for safe pharmaceuticals, one that respects and empowers consumers, recognizing the need for policies that protect and facilitate affordability of drugs in countries with different incomes.
  • Policies that affect online access to medication should be consumer-focused, patient-centered, evidence-based, and created with the understanding that prices often prohibit access.
  • Recognizing the public health benefit in enabling consumers to find international online pharmacies that are safe and reliable, international and national enforcement efforts should focus on identifying and sanctioning online pharmacies that engage in the intentional sale of counterfeit and falsified medication, as defined by the World Health Organization, and otherwise ensuring that online pharmacies are a reliable and safe source of medications.
  • Internet intermediaries, such as domain name registries, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions and mail and delivery services should not misuse their commercial power to disrupt online access to lawful, safe and affordable medication.
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