The workshop participants reached the following key conclusions:
All medicines must be safe and of suitable quality and must be provided with an appropriate quality of pharmaceutical care, regardless of which pharmacy dispenses them.
The benefits consumers and patients expect from the availability of medicines on the Net include being able to choose from different offers, competitive prices of medicines and healthcare, anonymity if they suffer from diseases which are likely to lead to stigmatisation, and convenient access.
However, to date, patients have not uniformly benefited from medicines on the Net because they have difficulties finding information and because producers have shortcomings in providing it to them. Often, medicines obtained outside of regulated and legitimate supply chains, including certain offers via the Web, pose significant health risks due to substandard quality of products and pharmaceutical care and to criminal conduct.
Initiatives are required to:
- provide better access to mbalanced information,
- improve medication-related health literacy,
- verify information on medicines on the Web,
- set standards in a participative manner for the presentation of specific information on the Web.
In particular, information about medicines on the Net should be unbiased and user friendly, including valid information that is easy to read and easy to find.
Public health authorities have an important role as regards consumer education and empowerment, verification of Web information content and accessibility, setting standards and cooperation across borders to contain risks.
Legal offers of pharmaceutical services through the Internet should be regulated at the international level to ensure that they are safe and effective. Council of Europe standards for good practices for distributing medicines via mail order, which protect patient safety and ensure the quality of the delivered medicines and healthcare products, can serve as a model.
International criminal legislation is needed to deal with potential public health risks resulting from criminal activity in this area and especially those arising through Internet trade and the growing market of counterfeit medicines and other healthcare products.
The Council of Europe is preparing an international legally binding treaty, a convention against counterfeiting of medical products and related crimes involving threats to public health, which will also be open to participation by non-member states beyond Europe. It is expected to be opened for signature in 2010.
The UN IGF is invited to consider hosting a future Internet health action framework.