NABP Issues Rogue Online Pharmacy Public Health Alert

Topics: Buying medicine online and Internet pharmacy

New Report Shows 85% of Fake Online Drug Outlets Don’t Require Valid Prescription, Fuel Prescription Drug Abuse

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) today issued a public health alert to warn Americans about the serious dangers associated with medicines purchased through fake online pharmacies. A report NABP released today on Internet drug outlets found that 96% of 8,000 rogue Web sites analyzed continue to operate out of compliance with United States pharmacy laws, fuel prescription drug abuse and misuse, and provide an outlet for counterfeit medicines to enter the US drug supply – all of which significantly endanger the health and safety of Americans.

“The fake online pharmacy crisis has reached an epidemic level – they prey on prescription drug abusers and the most vulnerable members of society who rely on medicine every day for their health,” said NABP President Malcolm J. Broussard, RPh. “They offer easy access to potent medicines without a prescription and indiscriminately push dangerous counterfeit drugs. This problem poses a clear danger to Americans’ health and safety and weakens the essential relationships between pharmacists and patients. By issuing a public health alert, we are calling on pharmacists, physicians, and other health professionals to educate their patients about the growing public health threat posed by these illegal online enterprises.”

In the Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: July 2011 (PDF), the Association found that although the Internet marketplace has evolved somewhat in response to new laws, it remains a pervasive contributor to the rampant misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. To help consumers find safe sources for purchasing medicine online safely, NABP developed the VIPPS® (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesCM) accreditation program. Consumers should look for the VIPPS Seal on an accredited site, or check NABP’s database at http://vippspharmacies.net/.

Rogue sites are also known to sell dangerous counterfeit drugs, not only to those seeking lifestyle drugs like Viagra®, but also to people who depend on medication for their health or even their lives for chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer. As part of its continued efforts to combat these rogue sites, NABP and the state boards of pharmacy are stepping up their efforts to educate the public through the AWARxE™ consumer protection program. The AWARxE Web site, www.awarerx.org, provides information on safely obtaining medications and includes updated news, tips, information, and links to relevant NABP resources.

In its report, NABP reviewed more than 8,000 Web sites and found that 96% of these sites can be traced to rogue affiliate networks obtaining prescription drugs from questionable sources, and dispensing them indiscriminately to patients without a valid prescription or medical oversight. The report also found that of the Web sites:

  • 6,812 (more than 85%) do not require a valid prescription
  • 3,687 offer foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs
  • 2,100 have a physical address located outside of the US
  • 2,878 have server locations in foreign countries

While some recent studies and the media have down-played the role of the Internet in prescription drug abuse, health care experts and medication safety advocates continue to underscore the connection between increased use of the Internet and the rise in drug misuse and abuse. NABP’s report highlights how the increased availability of the Internet and new technology has enabled the continued success of rogue Internet drug outlets:

  • A study published in the 2011 Journal of Health and Affairs found that for every 10% increase in high-speed Internet use at the state level, there is a corresponding 1% increase in admissions to treatment centers for addiction to prescription drugs. Based on these findings the authors surmise that the rise in prescription drug abuse can be explained by increased access to rogue Internet drug outlets.
  • Illegal online drug sellers are now using social media to make illicit prescription drug sales, according to the article “Protecting Our Drug Supply: Internet Pharmacies, Fake Drugs and the Debate Over Imported Medicine,” by Bryan Liang, MD, PhD, JD, vice president of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.
  • LegitScript reports that 1,000 Internet drugs outlets (a number consistent with NABP’s findings) overtly promote the illicit sale of controlled substances without a valid prescription, a violation of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act. The report further states that while many of these sites have foreign ties, more than half and as many as three-fourths of these illicit drug sites are using US-based servers or domain name registrars.

NABP publishes on its Web site the Not Recommended List, which lists those Internet drug outlets that appear to be out of compliance with state and federal laws or NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards.

For the full report with detailed findings on the characteristics of rogue Web sites, visit the Buying Medicine Online section of the NABP Web site.

For more information on AWARxE, visit www.awarerx.org.