In the first few weeks of 2019, two key agencies within the Executive Office of the President released comprehensive reports that highlight the impact of illegal online drug sales and ongoing efforts needed to combat the influx of counterfeit, substandard, or illicit drugs into the United States:
- On January 31, newly appointed Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Jim Carroll announced the release of the National Drug Control Strategy (Strategy).
- On February 4, the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Vishal Amin released the Trump Administration’s Annual Intellectual Property Report to Congress.
Having been confirmed by the US Senate in early January and sworn in to his current position by Vice President Mike Pence earlier that day, Carroll released the long-awaited Strategy, the first of the Trump Administration. NABP and allies met with ONDCP staff during the development of this report.
A portion of the comprehensive plan includes two priority items for NABP: (1) combating illicit internet drug sales, and (2) addressing the influx of illicit drugs through international mail facilities. Both items are areas of significant focus of ONDCP’s response in 2019 and likely beyond. Efforts are aimed at stemming the proliferation of drug trafficking organizations on the clear web and dark web, along with the implementation of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act of to limit the entry of dangerous and deadly drugs into the country. These efforts complement other approaches discussed in the Strategy, including but not limited to:
- shoring up physical borders,
- promoting international law enforcement collaboration, and
- increasing efforts to improve access and coverage of medication-assisted treatment and evidence-based wraparound services integral to treating a substance use disorder.
The Office of the IPEC issued their Annual Intellectual Property Report to Congress earlier this month, which includes a significant focus on counterfeit and falsified drugs and the operation of illegal online pharmacy websites. The 197-page report highlights cross-governmental collaboration – including efforts from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security – alongside several public-private sector partnerships aimed at raising awareness of this issue and reducing the availability of counterfeit or dangerous drugs. The IPEC report discusses many of the enforcement actions taken by federal agency partners against individuals and corporations operating illegal online pharmacy websites, including the sentencing of Kristjan Thorkelson of Canada Drugs, and others focused on counterfeit and adulterated Botox®, oxycodone, anabolic steroids, and other prescription and illicit drugs.
Taken together, the issues and potential solutions highlighted by the ONDCP and IPEC align with the goals of NABP’s .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program to foremost protect public health and patient safety. Utilization of websites verified by NABP is a first step in ensuring consumers are accessing legitimate resources of health information and medications online.