The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) today issued a report emphasizing that the global distribution of counterfeit and substandard medications, fueled by illegal online sellers, demands an international response. As detailed in the Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: April 2013, NABP has partnered with regulatory authorities, industry leaders, and stakeholder groups worldwide to address the issue of rogue Internet drug sellers in order to protect the global public health. At the center of these efforts is NABP’s application – submitted with the support of a global coalition of stakeholders – to own and operate the .PHARMACY domain registry, an initiative intended to provide a safe online space for consumers around the world to order medications.
NABP continues to review and monitor Web sites selling prescription drugs to patients in the United States and its findings are also presented in the report released today – of more than 10,000 Web sites analyzed, nearly 97% operate out of compliance with pharmacy laws and practice standards established in the US, and many other developed countries, to protect public health.
Regulatory agencies and public health organizations in the US and abroad indicate that the spread of poor quality and counterfeit medications has proliferated due to illegal distribution by Internet sites, as indicated in the report. For example, the Institute of Medicine has examined the global impact of fake and substandard drugs and notes that illegal online drug sellers contribute significantly to the problem. In addition, INTERPOL, the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, and the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicine have identified rogue Internet drug outlets as primary sources of medications that do not meet regulatory standards in the countries and jurisdictions to which they are distributed.
To address this global public health threat, NABP applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to own and operate the .PHARMACY suffix, referred to as a generic Top-Level Domain. In its application, NABP stated the importance of ensuring that only legitimate Web site operators that adhere to pharmacy laws in the jurisdictions in which they are based and to which they sell medicine will be able to register domain names in .PHARMACY. This includes legitimate online pharmacies and related entities that are located in countries other than the US. NABP, and the global coalition of stakeholders that has encouraged and supported this initiative, contends that requiring .PHARMACY registrants to comply with international standards serves the public interest.
As indicated in the report released today, NABP has reviewed more than 10,400 Web sites and the vast majority of sites (97%) were found to be operating out of compliance with US pharmacy laws and are listed as Not Recommended on NABP’s consumer protection Web site, www.AWARErx.org. The 10,082 Internet drug outlets currently listed as Not Recommended are characterized as follows:
- 4,847 offer foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs
- 8,861 do not require a valid prescription
- 2,347 have a physical address located outside of the US (most rogue sites post no address whatsoever)
- 1,123 dispense controlled substances
To help consumers in the US find the safest sources for purchasing medicine online, NABP developed the VIPPS® (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesCM) accreditation program. Consumers are encouraged to look for the VIPPS Seal on an accredited site, or check NABP’s database on its consumer protection Web site, www.AWARErx.org. The Web site is part of the AWARxE® Consumer Protection Program, provided by NABP and the state boards of pharmacy to help educate the public about the risks of Internet drug outlets, and includes news, tips, and links to relevant NABP resources.
For the full report with detailed findings on the characteristics of rogue Web sites, visit www.AWARErx.org/get-informed/safe-acquisition/not-recommended-sites.
NABP is the independent, international, and impartial Association that assists its state member boards and jurisdictions in developing, implementing, and enforcing uniform standards for the purpose of protecting the public health.