Last week, like most here in DC, Capitol Hill was abuzz with debates and discussions about the latest draft of legislation in either chamber. The buzz last week was of particular importance to Eli Lilly and Company and many other health and patient advocates who want to protect patients from potentially dangerous counterfeit products. In a press release last Thursday, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and several other cosponsors from both sides of the aisle announced the introduction of legislation that would “crack down on rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods.”
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP Act will help provide law enforcement with the tools they require to shut down illegal online distributors of counterfeit products. This bill provides a clear message to illegal online drug sellers that they must not be able to abuse the ambiguities of the internet to prey on unsuspecting Americans who choose to purchase their medicine online. A section in the new legislation provides safe harbor to private companies, like search engines, who want to protect patients by enforcing their own contracts and shutting off services when fake pharmacies violate IP laws and endanger public health. This section of the bill ensures that the fake pharmacies can't sue Internet companies if they choose to do the right thing for American consumers. It provides an important incentive for Internet companies to join us in trying to protect the intellectual property rights of producers like Lilly as well as all Americans who want to purchase their medicines online.
The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), which Lilly actively supports as a member, shares our goal of encouraging private companies to take voluntary action against illegal online drug sellers. ASOP highlights some of the unnerving statistics concerning the sale of counterfeit medication via the internet: While over 95% of medicines sold to Americans over the internet are from reputable online pharmacies, there are a growing number of illegal retailers who are willing to sell unapproved, misbranded or counterfeit medications. Of those illegal retailers, 90% are willing to sell medicines without a prescription. Regarding the importance and implications of such legislation, Senator Leahy explained that “this legislation will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments,” As for the safety of the American public, Senator Hatch asserted that “fake pharmaceuticals threaten people’s lives… this is why protecting property rights is a critical imperative and is why we’ve come together in introducing this common-sense bill.”
As I stated a few months ago in a blog calling for legislation like the PROTECT IP Act, Patient safety is our number one priority. When consumers access the internet and are given the option to purchase their medicines from a bogus firm located across the world, the nation faces a serious public health issue. We, at Lilly, appreciate the hard work and dedication the authors of this legislation have shown to safe medicines and American innovation.