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NABP review flags thousands of illicit Rx web sites
December 29th, 2009
NABP's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites seal signifies an accredited Internet pharmacy.
MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. – A review by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy finds more than 5,000 web sites selling prescription drugs as noncompliant with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards designed to safeguard public health.
The NABP said this week that these online outlets, which it labels as "not recommended," account for 96% of the total number of sites in its ongoing review of web sites selling prescription medications.
"Patients have grown to trust prescription medications in the U.S. because the manufacturing and supply systems are tightly regulated to ensure safety," NABP president Gary Schnabel said in a statement. "What many patients fail to realize, however, is that when buying medications from unknown sources online, those safeguards vanish, and the odds of getting counterfeit or substandard medication rise substantially."
Of the 5,231 Internet drug outlets examined since the May 2008 launch of the Internet drug outlet review program, 5,008 were out of compliance with basic criteria for legitimate pharmacy practice and were flagged as "not recommended" on the NABP Web site.
Of those "not recommended" outlets, more than 75% dispense drugs without a valid prescription, and over half accept a brief online questionnaire in place of a prescription, according to the NABP.
Almost 25% of the noncompliant sites post a physical address located outside the United States, and roughly half don't provide a physical address. The NABP, citing a figure from the World Health Organization, said more than 50% of medicines bought over the Internet from sites that conceal their physical address are counterfeit.
In other findings from the review, nearly half of "not recommended" sites offer foreign or unapproved drugs, and approximately 20% of the sites don't provide security to protect patients' personal and financial data.
"Patients looking to purchase medications over the Internet would be well-advised to consider who is on the other end of the transaction," Schnabel noted. "Virtually anyone with a computer and a bank account can sign on to become an affiliate of a rogue network, set up a Web site using a template and start selling drugs online. Bearing in mind that these affiliate network programs are behind thousands of Web sites selling prescription drugs, it follows that the operators of most Internet drug outlets have no knowledge of or concern for patient safety."
Online pharmacies listed as "recommended" on the NABP site have been accredited by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program. The association said these prescription drug sites have successfully completed its 19-point criteria evaluation and on-site inspection to ensure they adhere to high standards for pharmacy practice and patient safety.
In the section of its web site about buying medicine online, the NABP provides links to LegitScript, which checks the legitimacy of pharmacy sites against a database, and to Pharmahelper, which lets consumers research prescription drugs and compare prices at verified online pharmacies.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration took action to crack down on "rogue" Internet pharmacies as part of a worldwide initiative to curb illegal activity involving medical products. The FDA's move was praised by such pharmacy groups as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.