An estimated 36 million Americans, or one in six people, have purchased prescription drugs online without a doctor's prescription, according to research presented by The Partnership at and funded by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP).

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1 in 6 Americans bought prescription drugs online without Rx

December 15th, 2010

WASHINGTON – An estimated 36 million Americans, or one in six people, have purchased prescription drugs online without a doctor's prescription, according to research presented by The Partnership at and funded by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP).

The Partnership at revealed the findings of its drug purchasing habits study, a phone survey of more than 1,000 adults, on Tuesday at the White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum in Washington. The nonprofit group noted that illegal online drug sellers — also known as rogue Internet pharmacies — expose millions consumers to the dangers of taking counterfeit and unapproved medications.

"Those who sell prescription drugs online without a valid prescription are operating illegally, undercutting the laws that were put in place to protect patients, and are thereby endangering the public health," Victoria Espinel, U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator (IPEC), said at the forum. "It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior"

At the event, Espinel announced that 11 companies have come together voluntarily to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by targeting illegal online drug sellers. The companies include American Express, eNom, Inc., Go Daddy, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, Neustar, Network Solutions, PayPal, Visa and Yahoo.

"The announced collaboration is a huge win for public health and marks the first time that so many Internet commerce stakeholders have worked together on a comprehensive solution to address the rogue online drug sellers posing as Internet pharmacies. ASOP joins the IPEC in applauding the voluntary action by these 11 companies, and we look forward to working with these leading organizations to ensure patients have access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies," commented Libby Baney, an adviser at B&D Consulting who counsels for ASOP. The alliance's members include The Partnership at, the American Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Eli Lilly and Co., LegitScript, Merck and NeedyMeds.

In June, the Obama administration submitted to Congress a strategic plan to combat intellectual property theft, including the production and sale of counterfeit medications. Since that time, the IPEC has been working to increase cooperation between the government and the private sector to protect consumers from counterfeit medications sold on the Internet by illegal online drug sellers.

"The abuse of prescription medications is one of the most troubling public health problems in our country today," noted Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive officer of The Partnership at, which aims to prevent substance abuse by children. "Parents and policy makers alike need to be concerned about how easy it is to order these potentially 'abusable' drugs online. We support efforts to take the steps necessary to shut down rogue sites and encourage patients to safeguard medications and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed."

Unlike legitimate pharmacies that offer consumers the option of ordering doctor-prescribed medications over the Internet, rogue Internet drug sellers pose as legitimate web sites that offer prescription medicine for sale without a prescription — making it easy for people to unknowingly obtain potentially dangerous fake, substandard or unapproved drugs, according to The Partnership at and ASOP.

"More than 95% of Internet organic search results yield illicit web sites that offer to sell unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicine, mostly without a prescription," explained Jeannie Salo, director of global anti-counterfeiting, international government affairs, at Eli Lilly.

"The data announced at the White House today show that millions of Americans are putting their health at risk with online purchases by bypassing the laws — like the valid prescription requirement — that were put in place to protect patients," added John Horton, president of LegitScript, an Internet pharmacy verifier.

Baney stressed that drugs sold on rogue web sites often aren't the same as medicines they can get from a legitimate pharmacy and may be ineffective or harmful. "The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies plans to procure additional research to gain insights into why consumers buy online, what kinds of medicines they buy, and why some consumers perceive the risks while others don't. We are eager to partner with the 11 Internet commerce companies announced today who have agreed to take a stand against this public health threat."