Now we know - you can die from active ingredients purchased on-line. This is what happened on 24 March 2012 in Barletta, Southern Italy, to a young lady who had carried out a test examination for food intolerance. The cause of death was sorbitol (or - as it has most recently emerged - sodium bought by the owner of a laboratory on e-bay as sorbitol).
This leads us to the subject of safety of pharmaceutical products sold on the internet.
According to AIFA, the Italian Medicines Agency, the percentage of counterfeit pharmaceutical products is roughly 0.1 % of the entire Italian market. In fact the commercialisation of pharmaceuticals is heavily regulated in our country - also a delay in the use of the internet and e-commerce in this field has played a role so far. However the situation is rapidly changing, and more and more consumers are buying pharmaceutical products (especially life style) on-line, finding that it offers a lower price and more privacy. The risks are high since - according to the same AIFA - over 50 % of these pharmaceutical products are counterfeit, and some of them may cause significant problems to the health of the consumer.
For this reason, in 2011 the Senate of the Republic published a report on the investigations it had carried out, interviewing the main stakeholders and concluded that the level of attention should be kept high. The European Union has also recently adopted the Directive on Falsified Medicines, according to which medicine packages shall have special safety features to help identify fakes. It also mandates a common logo for legitimate online pharmacies to tackle the Internet trade in counterfeit medicines. In addition, it strengthens controls of the supply chain for active substances and medicine wholesalers.
In conjunction with the Working Group of the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, we are actively monitoring the situation, and will dedicate an event to this topic in the second part of the year.
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