Today, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) released its Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: July 2016. The report explores the connection between the dangers of rogue internet drug outlets and the risk of overdose from illegally dispensed prescription controlled substances (CS), as well as possibly tainted counterfeit medicines. Over the past eight years, NABP has worked to identify illegally operating websites to keep consumers safe and to try to decrease the overdoses and fatalities related to prescription drug misuse and abuse. Currently, 11,299 online drug outlets that sell prescription medications have been reviewed by NABP, and 95.79% have been classified as Not Recommended given that the websites are selling prescription medications out of compliance with state and federal laws and/or Association patient safety and pharmacy practice standards.
As quickly as NABP is able to identify unsafe online drug outlets, more continue to appear. Since its last report in April 2016, the Association has identified additional Not Recommended sites that offer medications from foreign sources or are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, dispense CS, and lack a requirement for a valid prescription. These factors stress the need for NABP's .Pharmacy Top-Level Domain (TLD) Program, which enables consumers to see if a website is safe simply by looking for the .pharmacy domain name in website addresses. Unlike logos and seals, the .pharmacy domain name cannot be faked by rogue websites. In order to obtain a .pharmacy domain, pharmacies and pharmacy-related entities must be vetted by NABP to confirm that they meet all applicable regulatory standards (including pharmacy licensure and valid prescription requirements) in the jurisdictions where they are based and where they serve patients.
NABP's efforts to create a safe online environment for consumers started more than 15 years ago with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites® accreditation program, followed by the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites® and e-Advertiser Approval Program. The .Pharmacy TLD Program is the evolution of the Association's ongoing efforts. Currently, 232 .pharmacy domain names have been registered for use. Among them, top pharmacies like CVS and Rite Aid are using the trusted .pharmacy domain.
The NABP report points out that, despite the perception that illegal purchases of prescription opioids only take place with drug dealers on the street, rogue internet drug outlets serve as dealers hiding behind sleek websites that look safe to people trying to purchase CS medications. For those struggling with drug abuse, finding a Not Recommended website can seem like an easy way to buy prescription medicines illegally, but NABP warns that many of these rogue websites sell counterfeit and tainted substances that can increase the risk of overdose and death. Utilizing unknown and unapproved sources selling medication online is dangerous.
NABP's report also details the findings of a study by the College Criminal Justice Division in Boston, MA, about opioid availability online and points out government agency warnings about counterfeit opioids. Both issues further reinforce concerns about the illegal sales of prescription opioid drugs and their link to the opioid epidemic. Pills with hidden lethal ingredients and websites that provide easy access to opioids without a prescription are only part of the dangers that consumers are facing when purchasing medications from unknown and unapproved sources online.
For the full report, visit the Not Recommended Online Pharmacies page in the Acquire Safely section of www.AWARErx.pharmacy.
To see the list of approved entities with registered .pharmacy domain names, visit the Buying Safely section of www.safe.pharmacy.
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy