The availability of drugs in Cyberspace and the institutional framework. It’s never too late…
Public health is a key element for the development and sustainability of every society. In today’s interlinked reality, of the pandemic and post-pandemic era, this commodity takes on a timely and unique value, as the vulnerability to a range of risks and challenges is more visible than ever. Within this space-time framework, the concept of disposal, trafficking and use of medicines is a key issue, characterized by a necessary, strict legal-institutional framework, in almost all states of the earth. For this reason, various international organizations and agencies have undertaken and continue to undertake initiatives to update the above institutional framework, considering the rapid technological developments (as well as all the relevant social-economic-politics).
Both the World Health Organization and the Council of Europe, as two of the most important international organizations, have included in their agenda the promotion for the development of necessary public policies regarding the trafficking and disposal of medicines to every person who needs them. At the same time, it is found in a series of relevant joint operations (such as Pangea), but also in relevant reports of law enforcement agencies such as Interpol, Europol, EUIPO, etc., a significant increase in illegal medicine trafficking and drug trafficking (counterfeit and adulterated medicines as well as other paramedical similar products).
These events put public health at risk and, at the same time, bring huge financial profits and benefits to serious organized crime and cybercrime circles (since they have been circulating over the visible and invisible internet for years) enlarging and fueling the gray or “shadow” economy, and burdening the standard of living of peoples’ societies. For this reason, the Council of Europe (CoE) has proceeded with specific actions, which are concentrated around the Medicines Convention (Medicrime Convention). This institutional text has been signed and ratified by many countries (among which all the neighboring countries of our country - Cyprus, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Turkey - but also more recently Nigeria etc.) acquiring additional tools and possibilities to deal with the phenomenon of the illegal trafficking of drugs or dangerous substances, for which organized crime makes efforts to exploit the institutional and technological gaps of countries that do not take enough care.
For our country, unfortunately to this day (in the eleventh year since its creation) the integration of the Medicines Convention into the domestic institutional-regulatory framework remains a challenge, creating questions about this perennial institutional difficulty. At this moment in which in the public discussion about medicines and how someone finds them on the internet and not in the scientifically accepted responsible framework (pharmacies-hospitals), we wish those who make the relevant decisions, with the agreement of the scientific community (pharmacy schools, pharmaceutical associations, medical associations, etc.) to proceed (even now) to the adoption of the above Convention.
All positive initiatives begin at some point...and each social reality chooses the priorities it deserves. Whether public health and illegal online drug trafficking is a matter of institutional choice or necessity remains to be seen.
Athens, April 4th, 2022
Georgios Papaprodromou - Major General (ret.) - Cybercrime expert