European Commission figures show a steady and consistent increase in illegal medicines entering the European Union. According to the latest DG TAXUD report on EU customs enforcement, the top category of articles stopped by customs was medicines (24%). 

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are dangerous and put patients at great risk. They often contain inactive, expired or useless ingredients with no therapeutic benefit and can even contain harmful substances.

The internet is the largest unregulated pharmaceutical market place in the World. According to The Counterfeiting Superhighway report carried out in 2008 by the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM), 62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard. The EAASM also carried out a study to understand the scope of legal and illegal of online pharmacies and found that 95.6% of online pharmacies researched are operating illegally. And 94% of websites do not have a named, verifiable pharmacist.  And over 90% of websites supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription.  The vast majority of illegal online pharmacies operate with impunity. 

ASOP EU has been established with the objective of making buying medicines online safer, in countries where it is permitted by Law.  It does not campaign for the introduction of online pharmacy in countries where it has yet to be legalised.

ASOP EU is an informal, independent multi-stakeholder coalition, with patient safety at the heart of everything that it stands for.

ASOP EU consists of various groups: patient organisations, healthcare providers, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, distributors, wholesalers, parallel traders, and online interme­diaries, such as logistics and postal companies, ISPs and platforms, search engines, and financial service providers that transact payments.  All participants are dedicated to increasing patient safety online and campaigning for tough action against illegal online pharmacies. It aims to make real and positive change to improve patient safety online, ensuring that Europe plays its important part in securing practical solutions to this growing global problem.

ASOP EU believes that the real power to disrupt the criminal business activity behind illegal online pharmacies lies with the key Internet intermediaries that, unintentionally, connect the rogue pharmacies with patients and consumers.  Stronger co-operation between these organisations is crucial to prevent online sales of counterfeit medicines. ASOP EU holds the view that the best way to disrupt this criminal activity is through voluntary and collaborative action on the part of the intermediaries.  Under this approach, private sector companies that provide services in support of online pharmacies would share information on sites that sell counterfeit or illegal pharmaceuticals. 

A number of actions have already been taken that are helpful in this respect, notably the Memorandum of Understanding against the sale of counterfeit goods online coordinated by the European Commission; the Charter to fight counterfeiting on the internet coordinated by the Government of France; and the launch of the (US-based) Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) supported by the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

ASOP EU calls on EU policy and decision-makers:

  • To consider the full range of policy options including voluntary action  to address the problem of illegal online pharmacies.
  • To support a stakeholder dialogue involving all players that can directly or indirectly prevent illegal online pharmacies selling medicines to patients.
  • To work in partrnership with members of this coalition to inform patients about the risks of purchasing from illegal online pharmacies. 
  • To continue to strengthen enforcement actions against sellers and traffickers of counterfeit medicines.

In return, the participants of ASOP EU undertake to work in partnership with policymakers to provide information on the illegal activities of rogue online pharmacies and to collaborate in developing policies and concrete actions to tackle this serious threat to patients.

On behalf of patients, the ASOP EU seeks the following: 

  1. The establishment of an EU Centre for Safe Internet Pharmacy, composed of the internet intermediaries.
  2. Agreed standards of due diligence and harmonised operating procedures for Internet intermediaries.
  3. A Europe-wide protocol for licensing online pharmacies.
  4. The introduction of “White Lists” fuelled by pre-qualification for a .pharmacy domain suffix.
  5. Direct action on the part of GtLD Registrars, to prevent spurious websites from appearing on the internet.
  6. A common methodology for removing rogue pharmacies, with effective sharing of information amongst stakeholders.
  7. A harmonised reporting mechanism for patients to easily report suspicious websites to a specific body, to remove these from the web.
  8. Penalties appropriate to a crime which puts public health at risk.
  9. Pan European awareness campaigns to educate patients about spurious online pharmacies.





News from ASOP EU

New scientific article aims to help simplify fake medicine terminology

4 Apr 2017

A new in depth analysis of the evolution of the descriptions applied to falsified, counterfeit and fake medicines has just been published. It aims to help clarify and simplify this hitherto controversial area. With the number of increasing illegally operating websites selling medicines across the world clear and easy to understand descriptors which will help to make public awareness raising campaigns more effective.

ASOP EU member adopts top level domain name .pharmacy

23 Mar 2017

To help ensure absolute security and recognition of a genuine fully legal online seller of medicines, the web page of the European Association of Mail Service Pharmacies (EAMSP) recently became the first in Europe to switch its Top Level Domain to .pharmacy. 

EAASM and ASOP EU to be present at the 22nd Congress of the European Association Of Hospital Pharmacists 22-24 March 2017.

10 Mar 2017

Mike Isles will be speaking on “Falsified Medicines: The Role of the Pharmacist in Raising Patient Awareness.




ASOP EU Members


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