Years ago, there were many news stories related to online pharmacies that sold prescription drugs to consumers either without a valid prescription or by using prescription-mill doctors that never actually saw a patient and may or may not provide legitimate medications. The FDA has worked hard to shut down these illegal online pharmacies, yet it seems new ones pop up all the time.
For consumers, there is always risk purchasing from online pharmacies. How can the consumer know the drug they’re being sent is the real thing and not just a coated sugar pill? How can the consumer know that the pharmacy is reputable – that they adhere to HIPPA laws, that they won’t steal credit card data or that they won’t sell something dangerous?
Earlier this year, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) was granted the exclusive right to use the .pharmacy domain name. At this point, they are taking name applications from those pharmacies they have already deemed to be reputable and safe and that have a trademark already registered. These companies can apply to register their trademark name only.
Once this sunset period ends, the registration will open up to non-trademarked names, but only to those pharmaceutical companies already deemed reputable by the NABP. And following that registration, other reputable companies which sell related items or provide information can register for the .pharmacy domain.
Part of the reason the .pharmacy was opened up was because studies show that almost 97% of online companies working as pharmacies and dispensing prescription medication do not follow standard medical practice and laws designed to safeguard consumers. With the NABP keeping oversight of the domain and not allowing anyone to register for a domain unless they are first approved consumers are guaranteed that the site they are using is safe, ethical, legal and follows high industry standards.
One of the concerns about giving a third party control over the website URL names is that the third party organization might not be impartial. This is a big concern when it comes to the NABP as the primary source of their income comes from three major pharmaceutical companies: Merck, Eli Lily and Pfizer. ICANN has already received challenges from other pharmaceutical organizations, including the Canadian International Pharmacy Association; however the plans are proceeding as set forth. In response to the concerns, the NABP has agreed to work with an advisory board to develop policies and procedures that is best for all legitimate pharmacies and will include other industry organizations.
For the moment, it’s important to remember that if you represent a pharmaceutical company or a company that sells related products or information, you may want to keep a close eye on the published deadlines for registry in the .pharmacy domain.