Internet Pharmacies have been around since the early 90’s.A large number of drugs are dispensed daily through these outlets. Technology has helped them become avaiable option to brick and mortar stores for certain segments of the population. Highly unregulated outside of theU.S., most of these outlets regularly deliver illegal medicines, knockoffs and dangerous material to unsuspecting patients. Should the consumer be blamed since they purchase of their own volition? Statistically, over 90percent of the internet pharmacies are illegal. How do we address this issue as a civilsociety? Regulation doesn’t have to be mired in red tape.
However, in the absence of gatekeepers or governance,spreading consumer awareness presents a daunting challenge.Genuine pharmacies care about the customers and the impactof accountable dispensing on the lives of the people. We, as a society, need to be focused on the effects of malpractices on the consumers. Technology can be used effectively to counter these issues. With the proliferation of social media and messaging,the challenge presents in two addressable ways as to what to say and who should say it. It’s imperative to spread the word on the adverse effects of spurious compounding, illegal dispensing of medication and self administration without adherence to accepted standards. Well timed and formatted messages should advise on legitimate sources and pharmacies for physician prescribed medication.
Doctor’s offices play a big part in propagating complianceto drugs, dosage and usage patterns along with legal pharmacies. Social Media can certainly be used effectively.After all, most of the living, breathing, device clad human beings are engaged in discussing inane things on social media anyway. I believe public service campaigns like these should be heavily subsidized to all regulators to message the public.Genuine pharmacy internet addresses should be promoted.
The pharmacy internet domain is currently viewed as a great way to drive people to genuine pharmacy sites owned
by accredited, responsible businesses. Search engines can direct traffic by clearly marking genuine websites. And how do we know if the messaging is adequate and is producing results? Tracking website activity, search engine results and score carding sultant statistics can show trends and patterns in consumer behavior.
Actionable Analytics available for regulators with a Dashboard view of Consumer behavior. Such an effort on a large scale, while costly in time and money, can help quantify behavioral modification and general effectiveness of messaging. Rinse and repeat. Celebrity endorsement can add impact as well. All these efforts may still not eradicate the 90percent illegal activity. We will need to develop more whistleblowers, customer reviews,denied credit card purchases, tax audits and other means to get this number further down.
Legitimate Internet pharmacies usually require patients to register and will offer services such as consultation with a pharmacist by telephone or email.
Legitimate online pharmacies also try to avoid potential drug interactions by working with new patients to indicate what other medications they are currently taking, giving a medical history, and describing related health conditions. Each patient is provided with a unique personal identifier and confidential patient specific information is only transmitted following entry of this number. The patient is sometimes offered the opportunity to participate in various programmes which the pharmacy offers such as email prescription refill reminders.
The Internet offers convenience and privacy for persons buying online while providing xpanded access to prescription drugs and health care practitioners. The challenge for pharmacy regulators is how to develop a regulatory approach that will prevent the dangers described, while preserving the online innovations that can enhance the appropriate use of medications and improved quality of life for the patient. This becomes even more amplified when we expand the boundaries of this issue across countries where U.S. laws and regulations cannot be imposed. Let’s turn our attention to another rapidly growing segment the advent of telepharmacies. Telepharmacies can be very valuable for rural communities where access to qualified pharmacists is difficult to obtain. Through this method, the disabled, the elderly, and patients living in remote areas can easily obtain information, products and services that were previously acquired only with great difficulty. All we need is telecommunications infrastructure and appropriate video/audio surveillance for the telepharmacy and access to well equipped computer for the remote patient. Local libraries can certainly help.
However, dispensing the drugs is still rooted in issues. Safe, expedited delivery of medication, dosage controls for those in remote regions all present challenges. From a compliance perspective, telepharmacies open upa whole slew of factors between a patient and the pharmacist. Drone deliveries may not be that distant of a possibility. Pharmacies can reduce the cost of operation by bolstering the TelePharmacy operations rather than supporting expensive pharmacy operations in rural areas. However, licensing of pharmacy operations are currently based on state jurisdictions.Telepharmacies technically can serve a wide variety of patient communities, possibly across state boundaries.
Regulatory bodies and policies will need to evolve in order to be boundary less. The advent of mobile computing, improved access to internet and customer demands are transforming standard pharmacy practices. Compliance needs will need to keep up with this evolution and hence the governing bodies need to rapidly grow with this change to institute policies and legal Instruments to better serve the public. The Ebola virus incidents of the recent past showed how poor the Current public health policies are when challenged with a crippling pandemic. Technologies work well when it is properly throttled with controls and measures to enable public safety. Patient safety and care should drive policies, which will in turn enable innovation for the betterment of the modern society. We will need meaningful, swift actions from the business community, regulatory instruments and lawmakers to keep up with technology cycles.