- Who regulates pharmacy websites?
- Can I get really cheap prices from pharmacies outside the US?
- What is wrong with using just any pharmacy website to buy cheaper medicine?
- What are the signs of a suspiciously operating pharmacy?
- What if I believe that an online pharmacy may be operating suspiciously?
- How are international pharmacy websites regulated?
- How do pharmacy websites verify prescriptions?
- I experienced poor customer service from, or read negative online reviews of, a pharmacy doing business over the internet, and I noticed that NABP has accredited/approved this business. Can NABP revoke accreditation/approval from this business or intervene?
- Why do I need to obtain .pharmacy verification prior to applying for VIPPS accreditation?
- How do I apply for verification through the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program?
- Who do I contact about the status of my VIPPS application?
- What can I expect during the on-site survey?
- What happens after the on-site survey?
- What is our role in regulating pharmacies?
- Why should a legitimate pharmacy want accreditation?
- What if I only want a .pharmacy domain and not VIPPS accreditation?
- If I already have a .pharmacy domain, why should I also get VIPPS accreditation?
- After an application is canceled, how long must pharmacies wait before submitting a new one?
1. Who regulates pharmacy websites?
State boards of pharmacy are primarily responsible for regulating pharmacy websites within their jurisdictions. Only individual state boards of pharmacy and state boards of medicine have authority to discipline or revoke a license.
Federal agencies such as FDA and DEA partner with these boards when applicable; however, FDA mainly regulates foreign-based sites and practitioners.
NABP does not regulate pharmacy websites, but it passes on reports of suspicious activity to the appropriate regulatory body. To report such activity, you may fill out our “Report a Suspicious Internet Pharmacy Site” form or contact your state board of pharmacy directly.
2. Can I get really cheap prices from pharmacies outside the US?
First, FDA generally prohibits the importation of foreign-made versions of prescription medications that are commercially available in the US. The safety and efficacy of these medications cannot be guaranteed. Many countries’ drug research and control programs are not as safety-oriented as those in the US. Though some of the drugs advertised by foreign sites may be manufactured by the same name brand international drug manufacturer as you are used to, they usually are not manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities that have met FDA standards. Further, sometimes the medications have been subjected to storage conditions that compromised their potency or safety.
3. What is wrong with using just any pharmacy website to buy cheaper medicine?
First, FDA restricts the distribution of certain drugs to a prescription-only basis because in certain medical situations they can be dangerous if not taken with ongoing medical consultation. Most regulatory authorities and professional organizations regard online prescribing to be unprofessional, and in some states it is illegal, unless it is done pursuant to a valid, ongoing patient-prescriber relationship that has included an in-person physical examination. Completing only an online questionnaire does not establish a valid patient-prescriber relationship. Moreover, without a physical examination you could receive inappropriate medication and worsen an underlying, undiagnosed, serious medical condition.
As for false claims of increased privacy and confidentiality, evidence appears to indicate that illegitimate prescribing sites frequently sell their customer lists to other illegitimate online pharmacy operators and owners of internet scam and pornography sites. By purchasing drugs from an illegitimate site, you may be designating yourself as someone who is a good target for rip-off schemes.
Frequently, deceived consumers notify us of non-receipt of medications they ordered and/or credit card charges that illegitimately operating pharmacies refuse to remove. Many also complain that they are unable to contact the pharmacies: phone lines are disconnected or no one answers.
4. What are the signs of a suspiciously operating pharmacy?
Learning the signs that point to suspect pharmacies can help you protect yourself from rogue internet sites. One sign is dispensing prescription medications without requiring a prescription. Another red flag that you’ve encountered a rogue internet drug outlet is if the site doesn’t list a phone number or street address. You can learn about other warning signs on our .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program website.
5. What if I believe that a pharmacy website may be operating suspiciously?
Please report suspiciously operating pharmacies to us. You may do so anonymously. We also encourage you to report such sites to your local state board of pharmacy, especially if you or a loved one has been harmed. We forward information regarding suspiciously operating sites to the most appropriate regulatory authorities.
6. How are international pharmacy websites regulated?
Online sites located outside the US pose the greatest challenges for state and federal regulators. Cooperation with other nations and their regulatory agencies has been and continues to be the key to regulating online international pharmacy sites. We are working with a number of international regulatory agencies to establish the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program for their pharmacy websites.
7. How do pharmacy websites verify prescriptions?
Generally, state laws require faxed prescriptions to be received directly from the prescriber (not the patient) to be valid. Online sites that do not protect the integrity of the original prescription, or that do not verify the authenticity of suspect prescriptions, may be in violation of the law. In addition, VIPPS-accredited pharmacies must have policies and procedures in place that address these issues. Before you entrust your health to anyone online, look for the VIPPS Seal or .pharmacy in the URL.
8. I experienced poor customer service from, or read negative online reviews of, a pharmacy doing business over the internet, and I noticed that NABP has accredited/approved this business. Can NABP revoke accreditation/approval from this business or intervene?
For its Accreditation programs, NABP evaluates only businesses’ adherence to state and federal pharmacy practice laws and best pharmacy practice standards. Unless your complaint centers on a component of an Accreditation program criteria or standard, NABP cannot intervene. NABP has no control over businesses’ customer service or marketing practices. If you have serious concerns about any business you encounter, please contact the state board of pharmacy in which that business is located or a local law enforcement authority.
For VIPPS Applicants
1. Why do I need to obtain .pharmacy verification prior to applying for VIPPS accreditation?
We view the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program as the future of safe online pharmacy and online pharmacy-related practice, offering a superior means of authenticating a website’s compliance with law by building its .pharmacy verification into the domain itself. .Pharmacy is recognized by search engines as satisfying paid online advertising requirements, as well as credit card companies, including VISA and MasterCard, for certain card not present transactions, so obtaining .pharmacy verification prior to applying through VIPPS also enables prospective pharmacies to take advantage of the benefits of verification while in the process of seeking accreditation.
.Pharmacy verification is an important first step in establishing the legitimacy of your company’s online practice and is a program founded on guidance from a global coalition of pharmacy community stakeholders to ensure it operates in a manner consistent with international laws and standards.
2. How do I apply for verification through the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program?
The online application can be found on the Apply page. However, prior to applying to .pharmacy, we strongly recommend reviewing the program’s Frequently Asked Questions page, as well as familiarizing oneself with the Program Standards, Registrant Eligibility, Authorized Usage Policy, Terms and Conditions, and Refund Policy, all of which can be found on the Standards/Policies page.
3. Who do I contact about the status of my VIPPS application?
4. What can I expect during the on-site survey?
A survey will be scheduled at an agreed-upon date. It will focus on compliance with the VIPPS Criteria, federal and state rules and laws, and implementation of the pharmacy’s approved policies and procedures. One of our surveyors will typically be at the pharmacy for a full day, interviewing personnel, reviewing pharmacy records/documents, and touring the pharmacy.
Multiple surveys at cost may be required if your business has multiple licensed facilities which engage in varying types of pharmacy practice. In this instance, we may survey one sampling of each practice type.
5. What happens after the on-site survey?
The pharmacy will receive a letter outlining the findings of the survey, identifying any areas of non-compliance with the VIPPS Criteria, and will be given an opportunity to correct them. Facilities are given 30 calendar days for any needed remediation.
6. What is our role in regulating pharmacies?
We do not regulate pharmacies, but it supports the state boards of pharmacy that do. We administer the competency examinations that state boards require for pharmacist licensure and many boards rely on our accreditation programs to verify that suppliers or pharmacy websites with multiple licenses are operating safely and legitimately in the jurisdictions where they do business.
7. Why should a legitimate pharmacy want accreditation?
For one, they will not be able to advertise with Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, because these search engines require VIPPS accreditation or .pharmacy verification to do so. Also, Visa recognizes companies with accreditation or verification as legitimate pharmacy merchants. And finally, securing VIPPS accreditation allows legitimate pharmacies to gain additional credibility and consumer trust through linking with us, which has protected the public health since 1904.
8. What if I only want a .pharmacy domain and not VIPPS accreditation?
If you only want a .pharmacy domain, you are not required to have VIPPS accreditation. Visit the Apply page to learn more.
9. If I already have a .pharmacy domain, why should I also get VIPPS accreditation?
When VIPPS launched in 1999, it was the first of its kind to face a new type of threat the world had never seen before – websites selling fake and dangerous medicines. VIPPS accreditation shows that your company takes customer safety seriously with rigorous reviews of policies and procedures and an on-site survey necessary for accreditation. VIPPS is a great choice for your pharmacy and website if you only do business in the United States, hold several licenses throughout the country, and are looking to advertise online through major search engines. VIPPS is also recognized or required by over 20 state boards of pharmacy and credit card companies requiring validation for certain pharmacy transactions.
10. After an application is canceled, how long must pharmacies wait before submitting a new one?
When we cancel a pharmacy’s application based on its inability to demonstrate compliance with VIPPS Criteria, the pharmacy must wait 180 days to submit a new application.
NABP e-Profile Assistance
1. What is an e-Profile?
The NABP e-Profile system allows individuals to easily manage their participation in NABP programs. At present, the system is used by pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy students to easily manage their participation in NABP programs and to track continuing pharmacy education. They are all provided with a unique e-Profile ID when they create their account.
Additionally, states may require facilities to provide e-Profile IDs so that they may access discipline and other information that is shared between states and managed by NABP in the e-Profile system. (See FAQ #2 below for information on obtaining a facility e-Profile ID.)
2. I am a facility, not an individual. How do I obtain an e-Profile ID?
At present, it is not possible for a facility to create its own e-Profile ID. However, NABP can assist your facility by creating the number, if necessary. It is possible that, unbeknownst to a facility, it may have already been assigned an e-Profile ID. To determine if your facility either has an e-Profile or if NABP needs to create one on your facility’s behalf, please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Legal Business Name (typically filled with resident state’s Secretary of State)
- Doing Business as Name
- Facility Address
- NCPDP ID (if applicable)
- Resident State License Number