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Published on 5 September 2014

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Web address ending .pharmacy to launch

Early in 2015, patients will have a new tool that will enable them to know for sure whether they are obtaining medicines, health information and services from websites that are authentic and safe.

 

Early in 2015, patients will have a new tool that will enable them to know for sure whether they are obtaining medicines, health information and services from websites that are authentic and safe.

 

Applications for use of the .pharmacy generic top-level internet domain will open by the end of the year, according to Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Mr Catizone presented the project to the Council of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), giving an overview of how the scheme will operate. The .pharmacy plan is being led by a global coalition of stakeholders, including the FIP. It addresses global concern about illegal online medicines sellers distributing products that endanger patient health, restricting use of .pharmacy domain names to legitimate website operators that meet internet pharmacy practice standards in the countries they operate, Mr Catizone explained.

Assurance logos have been used on internet sites; even ones that allow you to click through to a list of supposedly legal pharmacies but it can be hard for consumers to tell if the logo or list is fake. With dot pharmacy, there is no way to fake assurance —the seal of quality is included in the web address. FIP has supported this programme from the start,” said Luc Besançon, FIP general secretary and CEO.

Registrants for the domain must demonstrate adherence to all applicable laws where they are located and where their patients live. The criteria applied will be made up of two elements: baseline standards, which will need to be met everywhere and specific national standards, Mr Catizone said.

The anticipated launch will initially be for US applicants because so far it is the only country with standards approved at the national level but associations or regulatory bodies in other countries interested in developing the standards for their nations are asked to contact the NABP (exec-office@nabp.net). “We are looking to develop international partnerships through FIP,” Mr Catizone added.

The NABP will evaluate all applications for compliance with the standards. Once approved, there will be ongoing monitoring for compliance with reapplication required every year. For US applicants the evaluation fee will be $2,000 and the registration fees for .pharmacy will range from $750 to market value. “It will depend on the word they want to register – we are in the process of finalising which words fall into which categories and the exact prices for each. These are annual fees and will be required each year,” a spokeswoman said. So far over 70 websites have expressed interest in the .pharmacy programme. A campaign to educate consumers about .pharmacy is planned.

Governance of the .pharmacy programme will be overseen by an executive board comprised of members of the global coalition that supported .pharmacy, including FIP.

Online sales of unregulated and counterfeit medicines are estimated at US$75bn per year and, according to World Health Organization, in over 50% of cases, drugs purchased over the internet from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been found to be counterfeit.



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