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~ Envisional calls for international regulation of a multi-billion dollar industry of unregulated Online Pharmacies selling Viagra, Prozac, etc. direct to consumers ~

A new report by Envisional, the UK-based Internet monitoring company, reveals that many hundreds of "Online Pharmacies" are selling prescription drugs to consumers in the UK and around the world - ignoring local regulations applying to the sale of those drugs. This exposes consumers to the dangers of taking prescription drugs without proper medical supervision and creates legal risks for the pharmaceutical companies whose products are sold via illegal and unregulated sites.


The most common drugs sold online addressed sexual dysfunction, hair and weight loss, pregnancy prevention, depression and sleeping disorders. The survey found that many sites will deliver drugs such as Viagra, Propecia and Xenical direct to consumers, without prescription. Performance-enhancing drugs (sometimes used by bodybuilders and athletes) are also available. Envisional's research showed that it was easy to obtain substances such as creatine, EPO, HGH, and norandrostenedione from online sources. Jupiter Communications estimates that online healthcare spend on prescription drugs will be US$4.4bn so the scale of the potential problem is huge.

Brian Earle, Chief Executive of Envisional said, "The pharmacy and prescription system exists for a reason - to protect consumers from harmful side-effects that they are not trained to understand. If a doctor tells a patient that he cannot be prescribed Viagra because of a weak heart or other medical condition, that patient can easily obtain the drug over the Internet. There was a proposal that the US Government impose fines on websites that operate in this way but further investigation is certainly needed. In the UK, advertising prescription drugs direct to consumers is illegal but, owing to the international nature of the Internet, bodies like the government's Medical Control Agency (MCA) are often powerless to step in."

A statement from the MCA clearly demonstrates the illegal nature of these sites. "Products subject to prescription control may only be sold or supplied by a pharmacist on registered pharmacy premises against a doctor's prescription. Supplying these medicines without a prescription does not comply with the law." While the Agency has persuaded a few offending companies to amend their websites to reflect UK law, many hundreds of others continue to operate.

Clare Griffiths, a lawyer at Intellectual Property specialists Briffa, explained: "Where the pharmacist is based abroad and selling direct to UK consumers, although this activity is illegal, enforcing UK law against them can be problematic. But worryingly, even where the sites are based in the UK, the MCA, trading standards bodies and even the police have been unable to enforce the law effectively. Without specific legislation or licensing of e-pharmacies, genuine sites are concerned that patients may unwittingly purchase their medicines from 'cowboy' sites. One way to guard against this is to vigorously enforce trade mark rights against any sites that brand themselves or use domain names in a confusing way."

Earle added, "Representative bodies like The Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) are concerned about the legal implications for their members of products being sold through illegal channels, but again there is very little they can do. Regulation needs to be implemented on a global level, not merely a local one, in much the same way that The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry has tackled the problem of illegal copying of recorded music."

Griffiths continued, " If a pharmaceutical company is knowingly supplying drugs to illegal sites, then they would be liable for any foreseeable personal injury, including death from misuse. I know that the ABPI are keen to be seen to be squeaky clean on this issue but any slip-up could have significant consequences."


TOP TEN PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AVAILABLE FROM ONLINE PHARMACIES

Product / Used for:

1. Viagra / erectile dysfunction

2. Xenical / weight loss

3. Phentermine / weight loss

4. Meridia / weight loss

5. Bontril / weight loss

6. Propecia / hair loss

7. Prozac / antidepressant

8. Celebrex / to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

9. Ionamin / weight loss

10. Adipex / weight loss


Envisional's Discovery Eye and Asset Tracker technologies are used to protect and monitor brands, copyright material and other digital assets online. For more information contact info@envisional.com, or visit Envisional at http://www.envisional.com

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About Envisional's Discovery Engine Technology

Envisional uses an advanced, rules-based language to automate a discovery process beyond the scope of human capability. It helps businesses find out what is being said about them, their clients and competitors or a particular field of research.
It aims to help organisations in three distinct ways:


Revenues - For content publishers, the Internet has enabled intellectual property theft - of the spoken word, still and moving images and music - on an almost unimaginable scale. The discovery engine identifies breaches of copyright, enabling organisations to take appropriate action.


Reputations - For global brands, the Internet is the world's biggest rumour mill. Many of these rumours are generated by individuals with axes to grind and are extremely damaging. If this kind of misinformation is left unnoticed and unchecked, it can bring a company to its knees.


Research - the Internet is a vital source for those involved in research of any kind. However, the thousands of different URLs being returned by search engines for any query waste huge amounts of a researcher's time and money. Companies need to automate the drudgery of ploughing through these URLs in order to improve researcher's productivity.


Traditional search engines cannot provide any real precision in information retrieval, making it difficult, expensive and time consuming for organisations to address these problems. Envisional's Discovery Engine technology addresses precisely these shortcomings.


For further information:


Envisional Limited
Tel: 01223 569700
Email: info@envisional.com
Web: http://www.envisional.com


Contact:

Iain Frazer-Halpin/Lena Ahmed
Brodeur Worldwide
Tel: 01753 790700
Email: ifrazerhalpin@uk.brodeur.com
lahmed@uk.brodeur.com


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