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Brussels Principles on the Sale of Medicines over the Internet

Brussels Principles on the Sale of Medicines over the Internet


Published on January 1, 2018

January 2018

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Recognizing that:

  • The World Health Organization estimates that over two billion people lack regular access to essential medical products (i.e. medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics), which is exacerbated by a lack of affordability and local availability.
  • The Internet has served as a disruptive force to traditional industry in the practice of pharmacy and trade in pharmaceutical products, allowing for the international sale of medical products to patients with a prescription.
  • Failure to regulate the sale of medical products over the internet, including failure to differentiate between legitimate online pharmacies and rogue websites, poses a major public health risk.
  • Governments are neglecting their human rights obligations when their populations do not have adequate access to affordable healthcare, including access to medical products.

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

Number 1

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.


Global Health Foresighting



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Aria Ilyad Ahmad, Research Fellow, Global Health Foresighting Alum

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