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BRUSSELS PRINCIPLES ON THE SALE OF MEDICINES OVER THE INTERNET

Recognizing that:

We affirm the following principles relating to the sale of medical products ordered for personal use over the Internet:

Access to affordable medical products is a fundamental component of the right to health.

Patients with a prescription should be able to use the Internet to order safe, quality and affordable medical products for personal use.

National and regional legislation, regulation, and enforcement policies and actions should not prevent and/or deter patients with a prescription from importing safe, quality and affordable medical products for personal use.

Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations should promote a competitive online marketplace for safe and quality medical products in order to protect and facilitate affordability and access for all populations.

Policies that affect online access to medical products should aim to be evidence-based and patient-centered, including consideration of the fact that affordability and local availability can be significant barriers to access.

National, regional and international regulatory efforts should promote guidelines and best practices to ensure that online pharmacies are a reliable and safe source of medical products for patients. They should also identify and, through enforcement actions, sanction those online marketplaces engaging in the intentional sale and distribution of falsified and substandard medical products, as defined by the World Health Organization, as well as the sale of medical products to patients without a prescription.

Internet intermediaries, such as domain name registries, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions as well as physical and electronic mail and delivery services should not misuse their commercial power to disrupt online access to safe, quality and affordable medical products.

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About Us

We are NGOs, companies, trade associations, academics, Internet experts, and activists who know that the Internet can be used to help patients safely access affordable medicines, including obtaining them internationally. High drug prices are a global crisis, and that includes countries of all income levels. Two billion people cannot obtain needed medicines, according to the World Health Organization. Hundreds of millions of people have purchased their medicines over the Internet to fill prescriptions from pharmacies in their own and other countries. Many of them use the Internet to obtain medicines they can’t afford or ones that are not available domestically.

Through the United Nations, access to affordable medicines is recognized as a critical component of the right to health. It is through this normative framework that we are addressing safe online access to medicines.
While it is well-known that there are dangerous websites that sell substandard and/or falsified medicine intentionally and/or due to negligence, there are many online pharmacies that follow good standards of practice in accordance with their local or international regulations. When the Internet can facilitate safe access to affordable medicines, international organizations, countries, private companies, and non-governmental organizations must assist in collectively deterring dangerous rogue online ‘pharmacies’.

Addressing these issues resulted in the Brussel Principles on the Sale of Medicines Over the Internet.

History of the Brussels Principles

In 2016, Gabriel Levitt, founder of Prescription Justice, wrote a CircleID article, “Protecting Online Access to Safe and Affordable Medication.” The editorial described how drug companies strategically extend their regulatory capture of U.S. laws to the Internet to the detriment of patients who need more affordable medicines and was a call to action.

RightsCon, the world’s leading conference on human rights in the digital age heard the call, which resulted in an invitation to create a panel discussion/workshop to develop the world’s first set of principles on the sale of medicines using the Internet, with human rights and access to healthcare as guiding values. The title of the RightsCon 2017 workshop was “Online Access to Affordable Medication: Applying Human Rights Laws to Cyber Rule Making and Internet Governance.” Because the conference took place in Brussels, Belgium, the session output became known as the Brussels Principles.

At RightsCon Toronto 2018, academics Aria Ilyad Ahmad, the Balsille School of International Affairs and Dr. Jillian Kohler, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy led an esteemed panel to thoroughly review the 2017 output, strengthen, and finalize the Brussels Principles.

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