Last week, NABP issued a report urging greater accountability by the stakeholders charged with ensuring that action is taken against websites illegally selling medications online. As detailed in the Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: July 2015 (PDF), thousands of websites illegally distribute medications and avoid retribution. Such sites often distribute dangerous counterfeit drugs, putting at risk the health of the consumers who use them. Many of these rogue sites use domain names obtained from a small number of registrars who turn a blind eye to their illegal activity. The report highlights the need for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and domain name registrars – the stakeholders responsible for facilitating the use of Internet domain names – to enforce policies forbidding illegal use of websites and to take more accountability for shutting down rogue sites.
As noted in the report, NABP holds online drug sellers accountable to the laws and standards that govern pharmacy practice and, since 2008, the Association has been collecting data on websites selling medicine illegally online to United States patients. NABP has reviewed over 11,000 Internet drug outlets, finding that 96.13% of the sites reviewed operate out of compliance with US pharmacy laws and practice standards, and identifying these sites as “Not Recommended.” Approximately 85% of Not Recommended sites are selling prescription drugs without requiring a valid prescription. Nearly 50% offer drugs that are either foreign or not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further, of the 10,588 Not Recommended sites, 87% can be traced to affiliate networks of rogue Internet drug outlets.
Websites illegally selling drugs to patients in the US and in other countries hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, and in the gray areas between enforcement boundaries where the question of who should take responsibility for enforcing Internet policies goes unanswered. Many stakeholders, however, believe that domain name registrars and ICANN could play a greater role in protecting consumers. Registrars can make an impact by fulfilling their responsibility to shut down domains that are being used for illegal activities, and ICANN can hold registrars accountable for meeting this obligation.
The full news release is available on the NABP website. The full report with detailed findings on the characteristics of rogue websites and the list of Not Recommended sites is available on the AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program website.