With technological advances leading to new ways for patients to access health care, challenges and concerns for patient safety have arisen, notes patient safety advocates at FaegreBD Consulting. For example, consumers are increasingly turning to the internet for less expensive medicines even though 88% of United States consumers believe they do not have enough information about counterfeits. Online sales of prescription opioids are also on the rise. In 2015, during a two-week period, over 45,000 Tweets promoted the illicit use of prescription opioids and provided a link to an illegal online drug seller. Further, illicit drugs and counterfeit medications are shipped to US consumers by illegal online drug sellers.
Many policy efforts have been introduced in 2016 to address these interconnected digital health issues. For instance, policymakers have included telehealth and telemedicine provisions in proposed legislation. To address internet drug outlets, Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies – Global (ASOP Global) has collaborated with several nonprofit organizations, including NABP, to educate patients about safely purchasing medicines online. ASOP Global also recently hosted an international symposium in Beijing, China, to discuss rogue Chinese internet drug outlets. Legislation aimed at deterring foreign fentanyl from entering the US has been introduced, and a new coalition, Americans for Securing All Packages, was launched to decrease the influx of illicit fentanyl that has entered the US through the US Postal Service. Additional information on these policy efforts is included in a FaegreBD Consulting article.