OpSec Security, Inc., the global leader in anti-counterfeiting and brand protection, today released a two-year study which shows substantial trends of increased illicit behavior by trade board sellers that offer bulk pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to buyers and intermediaries, and Internet pharmacies that sell drugs directly to consumers.

  • 30% increase in online B2B trade board listings of bulk pharmaceutical products
  • 65% increase in Internet pharmacies that do not require a prescription or only require an online consultation
  • 300% increase in Internet pharmacies selling prescription drugs at a discount of 60-80% below retail prices

Sizeable Increase in B2B Trade Board Sellers Offering Suspect Bulk Pharmaceuticals
The study revealed a 30% rise in the number of listings offering bulk pharmaceuticals and APIs across multiple highly trafficked B2B trade boards. As highlighted in The New York Times "The Toxic Pipeline" investigative series, trade boards are often used as a platform for the sale and distribution of counterfeit pharmaceutical products. The OpSec study found listings of zolpidem tartrate, the API for a popular prescription sleep aid, advertised in 25 kilogram drum quantities. A single drum can be used to produce 2.3 million sleep aid pills with a retail value of $32 million.

The availability of bulk pharmaceuticals on B2B trade boards, which are unregulated environments, provides a global sourcing platform for buyers and intermediaries in the pharmaceutical supply chain. None of the pharmaceutical wholesalers mentioned pedigree information, even when offering to ship to the United States where the FDA requires pedigree tracking by each entity in the distribution chain.

Substantial Rise in Suspicious Online Pharmacies
In addition to offering significant discounts, 33% of the Internet pharmacies in the research exhibited all four of the following signs of "highly suspicious behavior" indicative of illicit drug sales.

  • Internet pharmacies registered in regulated regions that do not require a prescription, or require only an online consultation
  • Internet pharmacies that mask their WHOIS location and contact details
  • Internet pharmacies included on the NABP's "Not Recommended" List
  • Internet pharmacies registered outside the U.S., but targeting a U.S. consumer

Over the two-year period, a growing number of Internet pharmacies have abandoned the basic requirement of a valid prescription. The number of Internet pharmacies that do not require a prescription or only require an online consultation grew by 65%, while those that required a prescription decreased by 55%.

Ever Greater Discounts Offered to Entice Consumers to Buy Drugs Online
The study noted a 300% increase in Internet pharmacies offering 60-80% discounts below retail prices from 2007 to 2009. Of the hundreds of unaccredited Internet pharmacies researched, the average price of prescription drugs across a representative sampling of top-selling drugs was 78% below the average price on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accredited sites.

In addition, consumers are often targeted with potentially dangerous promotions offered when buying drugs online. One network of sites offered free erectile dysfunction pills with any purchase. For patients taking medications to prevent a heart attack or stroke, this promotion would be especially dangerous as they are advised not to take drugs that increase their heart rate and blood flow.

Alarming Trends Highlight Escalated Risks of Online Drug Purchases
"The continued rise of these trends reveals increasing risks to consumers who buy drugs and companies that source pharmaceutical products online," said Jeffrey Unger, president, Brand Protection, OpSec Security. "Unfortunately, the easy anonymity, lax regulations, and global reach of the Internet allow counterfeit drugs to enter into the legitimate supply chain."

Consumers enticed by the deep discounts offered online should be aware of the potential danger of counterfeit or substandard drugs on unaccredited Internet pharmacy sites. Likewise, pharmaceutical companies and governments need to address the widespread availability of suspect pharmaceutical products and their infiltration into the legitimate supply chain.

About OpSec
OpSec Security, Inc. is a wholly-owned division of OpSec Security Group plc (London AIM: OSG). OpSec Security is the global leader in providing anti-counterfeiting technologies, as well as solutions and services for physical and online brand protection, to over 300 brand owners and over 50 governments worldwide. The Group operates manufacturing facilities and laboratories in the USA and the UK, and has sales operations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. For more information, please see www.opsecsecurity.com.