NABP study says rogue websites are rampant

August 12, 2013

Nearly all prescription drug websites geared toward Americans are operating out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws, according to a study by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Nearly all prescription drug websites geared toward Americans are operating out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws, according to a study by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

In its recent study of more than 10,500 web sites, 97% were not operating within the law and are listed as “Not Recommended” on NABP’s AwareRx consumer protection website. Nearly 9,000 of the websites do not require a valid prescription and nearly 5,000 of the sites sell foreign drugs or drugs not approved by the FDA. In addition, 1,181 sites dispense controlled substances and 2,372 have physical addresses located outside the United States or do not list a physical address.

“The deceptive practices of illegal online drug sellers, combined with the prevalence of consumers buying prescription medicine online, underscore the need for consumer outreach,” said Carmen Catizone, NABP’s executive director.

Many consumers are fooled because the illegal or rogue drug websites portray that their sites are based in Canada or are distributing drugs approved by the Canadian government. “This particular tactic plays on the trusting nature of consumers and the sense of security U.S. consumers have with Canadian sites or drugs. In reality, the sites are based far from Canada and in countries where regulation and standards are nonexistent, thus presenting a significant threat to anyone obtaining their medications from the sites,” Catizone told Drug Topics.

NABP’s findings are supported by a July, 2013, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which 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.”

To help U.S. consumers find the safest online sites for purchasing medicines, NABP developed the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesCM (VIPPS) accreditation program. However, NABP found numerous examples of websites falsely claiming to be approved through the VIPPS program.