RightsCon 2017: Brussels Principles Endorse Access to Safe, Affordable Rx Drugs Online

RightsCon2017, also called “The Davos of Digital Rights”, was held at the end of March. Human and digital rights activists and experts from around the globe met to discuss human rights in the digital age. There are lots of implications for human rights in the digital age. Among them is access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. Advocates for internet access to affordable drugs held a panel at the conference and later drafted the Brussels Principles on Medication Sales over the Internet.

These principles can be used as guidelines by industry and governments to develop safe, accessible policy frameworks to permit the purchase and sale of prescription drugs safely over the Internet. Here is a copy of the principles.

Brussels Principles for the Online Sale of Medication


  • that the cost and local availability of medication is a global barrier to essential medical treatments for hundreds of millions of people;
  • that the Internet has served as a disruptive force to traditional industry in the practice of pharmacy and trade in pharmaceuticals, allowing for the ethical international sale of medications to patients;
  • that countries are neglecting their human rights obligations when their citizens do not have adequate access to affordable healthcare, including medication

We affirm the following principles relating to the sale of medicine ordered for personal use on the Internet:

  • Access to affordable medications is an essential component to the fundamental human right to health.
  • Laws, regulations, and enforcement actions that impede online access to lower-priced, lawfully manufactured medication can be inimical to public health.
  • Consumers should be able to use the Internet to order and have delivered through the mail safe and affordable medications.
  • National laws can violate fundamental human rights when their effect prevents and, or, deters, citizens from importing medications for personal use who, because of cost or other access reasons, when patients have no other realistic options.
  • Countries, and international organizations to which they belong, should promote a competitive online marketplace for safe pharmaceuticals, one that respects and empowers consumers, recognizing the need for policies that protect and facilitate affordability of drugs in countries with different incomes.
  • Policies that affect online access to medication should be consumer-focused, patient-centered, evidence-based, and created with the understanding that prices often prohibit access.
  • Recognizing the public health benefit in enabling consumers to find international online pharmacies that are safe and reliable, international and national enforcement efforts should focus on identifying and sanctioning online pharmacies that engage in the intentional sale of counterfeit and falsified medication, as defined by the World Health Organization, and otherwise ensuring that online pharmacies are a reliable and safe source of medication.
  • Internet intermediaries, such as domain name registries, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions and mail and delivery services should not misuse their commercial power to disrupt online access to lawful, safe and affordable medication.

These principles are endorsed by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, Canadian International Pharmacy Association, Knowledge Ecology International, and PharmacyChecker. But you can endorse them too. It’s very easy and you can do it here. Take action and add your voice to the growing number of people who advocate greater freedom.

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