Illegal internet sales of Rx and OTC drugs, as well as adulterated dietary supplements, put consumers at great risk. “Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products”, published on the FDA’s website, warns consumers:
“The FDA has identified an emerging trend where over-the-counter products, frequently represented as dietary supplements, contain hidden active ingredients that could be harmful. Consumers may unknowingly take products laced with varying quantities of approved prescription drug ingredients, controlled substances, and untested and unstudied pharmaceutically active ingredients. These deceptive products can harm you! Hidden ingredients are increasingly becoming a problem in products promoted for sexual enhancement. Remember, FDA cannot test all products on the market that contain potentially harmful hidden ingredients. Enforcement actions and consumer advisories for tainted products only cover a small fraction of the tainted over-the-counter products on the market.”
Last week, this blog’s sister publication, OTC.NewDirections, reported that an international crackdown on illegal internet trade of medical products yielded $81.8mn worth of items from 115 different countries, and 156 arrests. In the UK, a record $25.1mn worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and 15,000 devices was seized, including potentially harmful slimming pills, erectile dysfunction, anaemia and narcolepsy tablets. The US FDA took action against 1,050+ websites that illegally sell potentially dangerous, unapproved Rx medicines and medical devices.
In fact, regulators around the world are playing a high stakes game of Whack-a-Mole, a popular arcade game in which players hit cheeky little moles with mallets, but as soon as one is knocked out another appears elsewhere.
However, the risky business is driven by consumer demand, and now OTCs are in Action in New Zealand to satisfy those needs safely and legally. One of the more common unapproved ingredients in the FDA’s list of adulterated products is sildenafil, more commonly known by its legal Rx brand name, Viagra. The Rx-to-OTC switch of Silvasta (sildenafil) erectile dysfunction treatment in New Zealand was approved in late 2014. Men aged 35-70 years can purchase Silvasta without an Rx following a screening process with a trained pharmacist. This spring Nicholas Hall & Company awarded Douglas Pharma its top marketing award for the launch of Silvasta. A consumer campaign includes TV ads featuring an “everyday” man explaining that help is at hand from pharmacies without the need to see a doctor, while a pharmacy finder website directs men to the nearest outlet.
Another interesting development that will ensure consumer access to safer drugs is the UK’s new requirement that online medicine sellers must be registered with the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. They must display on every page of their website the new European common logo, which will be linked to their entry in the MHRA’s list of registered online sellers. The medicine being offered online must be licensed in the member state where the purchaser is based, and the seller must be legally entitled to sell medicine in accordance with UK legislation. Registered pharmacies can sell general sales list and pharmacy medicines or supply Rx-only medicines that they have dispensed against a prescription. Other retailers can only sell GSL (self-selection OTC) products. The penalty for disobeying the registration and logo rules is up to two years in prison, a fine or both.
In an somewhat related matter, as it affects consumer safety and appropriate use of OTC medicines by reducing illicit methamphetamine manufacture, Acura Pharmaceuticals has entered into an agreement with OTC cold remedy giant Bayer to license its IMPEDE technology. IMPEDE technology, which is available in the US in Acura’s Nexafed, has demonstrated significantly reduced yields of methamphetamine compared to traditional formulations in lab tests and has been associated with a reduction in meth labs in local markets of up to 90%. OTCs in Action covered the launch of Acura’s Nexafed Sinus Pressure + Pain (pseudoephedrine and acetaminophen) in February.