Moving one step closer to providing consumers worldwide with an easy way to identify safe online pharmacies and resources, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) has been deemed eligible to enter contract negotiations with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to own and operate the .pharmacy domain suffix. The new .pharmacy generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) will be available only to legitimate online pharmacies and related entities located in the United States or other countries. Further, the Registry Agreement between the Association and ICANN will include a number of safeguards intended to protect consumers and the public health.
Executing the agreement with ICANN will be a significant step in bringing the Association’s vision for the .pharmacy gTLD from concept to Internet. The .pharmacy proposal, developed in partnership with a global coalition of stakeholders, addresses a shared concern about illegal online drug sellers distributing products that endanger patient health worldwide. Thus, in its application to ICANN, NABP stated the importance of ensuring that only legitimate website 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.
NABP’s proposed criteria for .pharmacy registrants are consistent with safeguards recently defined by the ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC) and now required of all new gTLDs within highly regulated industries. The GAC safeguards address consumer protection, security, and privacy concerns and will be addressed in the Registry Agreement. For example, NABP, as the registry operator, will require that registrars approved to sell .pharmacy domain names notify registrants, such as Internet pharmacies, that they must comply with all applicable laws, and provide proof that they are licensed to operate a pharmacy and to practice pharmacy.
“With the Association’s mission to protect public health at the core of the .pharmacy proposal, NABP is pleased to move the project forward by entering into the contracting phase with ICANN,” states NABP President Karen M. Ryle, MS, RPh. “Once the program is operational, consumers and patients around the world will benefit by knowing that .pharmacy equals safe and vetted online pharmacies and resources.”
NABP’s .pharmacy proposal passed ICANN’s initial evaluation in May 2013, and since that time, the Association has been working toward operationalizing the .Pharmacy gTLD Program. The Association convened an advisory committee meeting in February 2013, and continues to collaborate with coalition supporters in the development of the program. Next steps in the process include performance of pre-delegation testing, which ensures that NABP and its technical partners have the capacity to operate the new .pharmacy gTLD in a stable and secure manner. Additionally, as the registry operator, NABP will contract with registrars that agree to ensure compliance with the established .pharmacy standards.
NABP continues to monitor websites selling prescription drugs to patients in the US and as of December 2013, has reviewed over 10,650 Internet drug outlets and found 97% of them to be out of compliance with pharmacy laws and practice standards established in the US to protect the public health. Of the 10,296 websites identified as Not Recommended, nearly half offer foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, many of which may be dangerous counterfeits, to unsuspecting US patients. Further, health and regulatory agencies in the US and abroad have reported cases of patients harmed by counterfeit, substandard, and adulterated medications distributed by illegal Internet sellers.
Among the global coalition of stakeholders behind the .pharmacy initiative are the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, Eli Lilly and Company, European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Gilead Sciences, Inc, International Pharmaceutical Federation, INTERPOL, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc, LegitScript, Merck/MSD, National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, Pfizer, and state boards of pharmacy.
For more information about NABP and the .pharmacy application, visit the Programs section of the NABP website.
NABP is the independent, international, and impartial Association that assists its state member boards and jurisdictions for the purpose of protecting the public health.