On the occasion of Internet Week in Spain and in view of the exponential growth in online sales of medicines and healthcare material derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, PONS IP and Smart Protection held a digital meeting with the participation of the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) in order to outline the actions taken by AEMPS against the illegal sale of medicines on the Internet, while presenting the results of the International Study on COVID-19-related Fake Medicines and Medical Products, compiled by Smart Protection.
Manuel Ibarra Lorente, Head of the Medicine Inspection and Control Department at AEMPS, reminded those present that ‘not all online sales of medicines are fraudulent’, as there are currently online channels that sell authorized medicines that don’t require a prescription. ‘We need to be able distinguish between them, and for that purpose the Agency has sufficient information available to the public on our website’, Ibarra pointed out.
The Head of AEMPS recalled that ‘it is essential to make society aware of the risks involved in buying illegal or fake medicines online, but also to encourage the public to report if they have been victims of fraud in this area’. Among the most useful tools to help people avoid becoming a victim of a fake sale, Ibarra shared the consultation website https://distafarma.aemps.es containing the list ranging from associated entities to physical pharmacies or companies conforming to Spanish and European regulations regarding the sale of healthcare material or medicines. Manuel Ibarra also shared another useful website to enable people to check whether the medicine they are being offered ‘actually corresponds to the consideration of a medicine or whether we are dealing with the sale of substances that are prohibited by our regulations’. Currently, the website http://cima.aemps.es/cima/publico/home.html contains a list of nearly 15,000 active ingredients authorized by the health regulator and available for consultation by the public, and provides relevant information on the seller and the authenticity of the website on which the product is marketed.
Carlos Jimenez, Product Manager at Smart Protection, presented the results
of the International Study on Online Infringements of Medicines and Medical Products associated with COVID-19, which was carried out in collaboration with Europol and the Spanish Agency of Medicines itself during the second half of March with a volume of 6 million data, focusing both on active ingredients closely linked to the pandemic context and on healthcare material in great demand worldwide, such as masks and serological tests.
According to this study, 58% of the illegal supply of medicines took place on social media, mainly on Instagram, and 38% on marketplaces, with Alibaba standing out as having the highest number of fakes. The greatest number of fakes found during the study were related to the terms ‘MASK, FPP2 and K95’, all of which are linked to certain types of masks used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In this regard, Carmen Gonzalez, Trademark Manager at PONS IP, pointed out that intellectual property registrations ‘may contribute to the provision of legal certainty to our products in the fight against COVID-19 and generate trust among citizens and consumers’. According to PONS IP’s lawyer, ‘companies should know that it is essential to have a good trademark portfolio, including newly-available trademark categories such as motion trademarks, in order to protect our reputation and to offer legal scope to help us actively defend the ownership of our products against the illegal sale of third-party fakes in online channels’.