Illegal websites offering for sale illegal and/or falsified products are an established threat for EU citizens. The internet is currently used both by private customers and also by unauthorized operators, buying drugs to be re-sold on the market (e.g. through sex shops or gyms).
European authorities (Drug Regulatory Agencies - DRAs, police and customs) and other public and private stakeholders (such as industries and universities) involved in combating pharmaceutical crime addressed the problem, but there was a clear need for an optimisation of coordination and cooperation.
In this scenario, “Fakeshare” – a project coordinated by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) and co-funded by the “Prevention of and Fight against Crime” Programme of the EC – aimed at developing coordinated initiatives (such as investigation, campaigning, training) against the illegal distribution of medicines, with the goal of optimising the use of resources in activities developed at national and international level, by:
- ensuring coordination of investigation activities and polices forces initiatives
- targeting the illegal web distribution of medicines
- sharing information between countries with similar scenarios
From May 2013 to April 2015 Fakeshare developed and offered a web platform and cooperative web tools for strategic prevention and action against the use of the internet as a support to the distribution of counterfeit medicines and, in general, for counteracting pharmacrime.
Databases and studies were complemented and validated by enforcement experts, LegitScript (IT agency supporting Google against e-pharmacrime) and universities.
Fakeshare co-beneficiaries were EU DRAs:
- National Authority for Medicines and Health Products – Autoridade national do Medicamento e Productos de Saùde (INFARMED), Portugal
- Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices – Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS), Spain
- and the universities of Rome “Sapienza” and Trento, Italy.
The associate partners of Fakeshare were enforcement authorities, like the “Comando dei carabinieri per la tutela della salute – NAS” and Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI, United Kingdom). Other partners involved are professionals from industry/DRAs, such as European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries & Associations (EFPIA, Belgium), RMSHMR , National Agency for Medicines of the Public Health Institute (Agencia Nacional de Medicamentos del Instituto de Salud Pública – ANAMED, Chile), and also IT experts like LegitScript (U.S.A.).
FakeShare is also supported by ASOP, Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies.
Since the project Fakeshare (I) promoted the information exchange between partners about pharmaceutical crimes on the Internet, the project Fakeshare II can be considered the natural evolution of it.
Fakeshare II extends the area of use and the scope of the web platform; the first, by enlarging the cooperation to MS in which there is an history of regulating (and investigating) e-pharmacies, such as the UK (MHRA), to non EU MS bordering the Union (a possible “door of access” for illegal medicines), e.g. Serbia, and to other Countries (e.g. Mexico, Chile); the latter, by extending the gathering and the sharing of data to all activities against pharmaceutical crime (including thefts of medicines and investigations on social networks), instead of limiting the activities to rogue e-pharmacies.
The usefulness of the shared information will be maximised by granting access to restricted areas of common interest to selected pharmaceutical industry professionals, with a greater integration and collaboration between the public and the private sectors in order to fight pharmacrime, with the deployment of new modules on the Fakeshare web platform.