The global nature of the Internet makes it an excellent way to promote health. But it can also give misleading information or be used to market harmful health care products. To a lot of consumers, the Internet means low prices, discounts, privacy, and access for people living in remote places or who want first access to new products.
There are countless illegal offers of medicines on the Internet, many of them counterfeit. The World Health Organization estimates that in over 50 % of cases medicines purchased over the Internet from sites that conceal their physical address are counterfeit.
In 2010 the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes involving threats to public health (MEDICRIME Convention), the first international criminal law treaty to address this public health problem.
The convention provides a framework for sanctions, victim protection and national and international co-operation, and considers the use of the Internet to distribute counterfeit medical products to be an aggravating circumstance. It is open for signature by any country in the world.
The MEDICRIME Convention criminalises:
- the manufacturing of counterfeit medical products;
- supplying, offering to supply and trafficking in counterfeit medical products;
- the falsification of documents;
- the unauthorised manufacturing or supplying of medicinal products and the marketing of medical devices that do not comply with conformity requirements.
Objectives of the Council of Europe
Setting standards and taking practical measures to promote public health and high quality medicines and for countries to co-operate on ways to criminalise illegal practices.
The European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare (EDQM) contributes to the basic human right of access to good quality medicines and health care by:
Parties to the Convention for the elaboration of a European Pharmacopoeia (37): Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia“, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the European Union.
Observers (25): Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Republic of Ghinea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, USA and the World Health Organization.
The Council of Europe is encouraging states all over the world to accede to the MEDICRIME Convention, which was opened for signature in Moscow on 28 October 2011.