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2013年6月14日 (金)

薬のネット販売 安全性と利便性両立が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 14, 2013
Regulation of online drug sales should promote safety, convenience
薬のネット販売 安全性と利便性両立が必要だ(6月13日付・読売社説)

We believe the government’s decision regarding the online sales of nonprescription drugs must please people who have limited means of transportation, such as the disabled and the elderly, and those who live on remote islands or in mountainous areas that lack pharmacies.

The government will mandate in its growth strategy, which is scheduled to be approved by the Cabinet on Friday, the lifting of a ban on online sales of nonprescription drugs, with certain exceptions.

Under the plan, regulations on online sales of nonprescription drugs will be significantly relaxed. Currently, only a limited number of drugs are allowed to be sold online, but consumers will soon be able to purchase most of the 11,400 existing nonprescription drugs through the Internet.

Although the economic impact of the move remains uncertain, the government expects the plan will be a symbol of its regulatory reform efforts.

The lifting of the ban was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling in January. The top court concluded that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s ordinance banning online sales of drugs--except for a few drugs said to have a low risk of side effects--was “illegal and invalid.”

The top court said the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law contained no clear indication that nonprescription drugs must be sold face-to-face. Currently, nonprescription drugs are required to be sold at drugstores through pharmacists or registered vendors.

The growth strategy said the safety of drugs should be discussed rationally and objectively, regardless of whether drugs are sold online or face-to-face, an apparent reflection of the judicial decision. We believe it is absolutely necessary to get rid of excessive regulations.

There has been research suggesting that the quality of communication conducted via the Internet is not necessarily inferior to that of face-to-face communication.

Some regulations necessary

However, we should not overlook a problem that emerged after the January ruling. Many companies have entered the online drug sales market since then. As a result, the ban on online sales has in effect dissolved along with the restrictions.

The possibility of nonprescription drugs causing serious side effects is extremely low. However, 24 cases of death resulting from nonprescription medication have been reported in the five years since fiscal 2007.

If massive amounts of nonprescription drugs are sold carelessly over the Internet, the risk of accidents will rise. Of course, the same can be said of over-the-counter sales, but we believe a certain amount of regulation of online sales of such drugs is necessary.

It was thus appropriate for the government to keep some exceptions to the ban on online sales of nonprescription drugs in tact. Due to safety considerations, the government said experts will further discuss the handling of 25 drugs, such as Loxonin, a prescription antipyretic-analgesic drug that was recently recategorized as a nonprescription drug.

Learn from foreign examples

The government said it will draw a conclusion on such drugs by the end of autumn, and aims to build a framework for them that is similar to the system for general nonprescription drugs, but which also promotes their careful sale and use. We want to remind the government of the importance of establishing a system that does not confuse consumers.

It seems that counterfeit drugs are being sold through some websites that sell privately imported drugs. The government must work out measures to effectively monitor such malicious businesses and eradicate them.

Britain is a good example to follow. The British government has already lifted its ban on online medicine sales. Business entities there are required to register with a pharmacist organization and obtain a mark of certification.

The government must make wholehearted efforts so that the safety and convenience of consumers will be achieved simultaneously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 13, 2013)
(2013年6月13日01時27分  読売新聞)


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