The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) today issued a report emphasizing the deceptive practices that illegal online drug sellers use to make consumers believe that they are legitimate, safe, and trustworthy. As detailed in the Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: July 2013 (PDF), NABP discovered numerous examples of Web sites falsely claiming to be accredited through the Association’s VIPPS® (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesCM) accreditation program, sites selling counterfeit versions of brand-name drugs, and sites claiming to be Canadian that dispense prescription drugs without any prescription and sell counterfeit versions of brand name drugs.
NABP reviews and monitors 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.
Consumers in the US tend to be particularly trusting of online drug sellers purporting to be Canadian pharmacies, many of which sell drugs that are neither approved by Health Canada nor legal to sell in Canada or the US. In the last quarter alone, NABP discovered a cluster of so-called Canadian “pharmacy” sites that also offer counterfeit versions of brand-name drugs and offer to dispense prescription drugs without any prescription. NABP’s findings are supported by a July 2013 report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Internet pharmacies that stated, “Many rogue Internet pharmacies seek to take advantage of this perception [of safe drugs obtained at an affordable price] by purporting to be located in Canada, or sell drugs manufactured or approved for sale in Canada, when they are actually located elsewhere or selling drugs sourced from other countries.” Furthermore, some of the medicines being sold on these Web sites may be too strong, too weak, fake, expired, stolen, diluted, or impure.
As indicated in the report released today, NABP has reviewed more than 10,500 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.AWARxErx.org. The 10,181 Internet drug outlets currently listed as Not Recommended are characterized as follows:
- 4,935 offer foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs
- 8,961 do not require a valid prescription
- 2,372 have a physical address located outside of the US (most rogue sites post no address whatsoever)
- 1,181 dispense controlled substances
The deceptive practices of illegal online drug sellers, combined with the prevalence of consumers buying prescription medicine online, underscore the need for consumer outreach. NABP, along with national and international groups including INTERPOL, GAO, FDA, and Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, stresses patient education as a crucial factor in the public health equation.
To help consumers in the US find the safest sources for purchasing medicine online, NABP developed the VIPPS accreditation program. Consumers are encouraged to look for the VIPPS Seal on an accredited site and check NABP’s list of accredited sites on its consumer protection Web site, www.AWARxErx.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.
In addition, NABP is working to provide consumers worldwide with a trustworthy online space where they can find legitimate pharmacies through its .PHARMACY generic Top-Level Domain initiative. Once launched, this initiative will ensure 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.
For the full report with detailed findings on the characteristics of rogue Web sites, visit www.AWARxErx.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.