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Pharmacy News

Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

New report finds growth in illegal online pharmacies

A new report from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science estimates that of 7,310 prescription drugs legally dispensed to U.S. patients between January 2017 to December 2022, roughly 70% (5,085) were being actively marketed and sold by illegal online pharmacies.

IQVIA researchers, with assistance from Translucent Datalab and IE University, also estimated that 416 million prescriptions were provided to patients through illegal online pharmacies between January 2017 and December 2022, representing 1.6% of overall prescriptions dispensed from both illegal online and legal pharmacies nationwide.

However, drugs sold through illegal online pharmacies were estimated to generate 10 times higher adverse event rates compared with drugs sold through legal pharmacies, resulting in an estimated 12.6% of total extra adverse events in the United States in connection with drugs purchased through illegal online pharmacies.

These adverse events represent an estimated additional $67 billion cost for the U.S. health care system on top of the health care consequences for patients, according to the report.

From 2019 to 2022, the number of prescriptions dispensed annually through illegal online pharmacies increased from 64 million to 85 million at a compounded annual growth rate of 10%.

Categories of legal therapies with the highest volume share being sold via illegal online pharmacies included drugs used as part of cancer treatment, including hormone therapies, at 10.4% of total volume; sex hormones at 5.5%; dermatologics at 3.4%; other cardiovascular drugs at 3.7%; hormonal contraception at 2.7%; and ADHD drugs at 2.7%.

Motivations for purchasing prescription drugs through illegal online pharmacies include perceived lower prices, off-label use, and stigma.

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