Vast majority of online pharmacies are fly-by-night operations, report finds

NABP report reviews more than 10,000 online pharmacies

MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. — About 97% of online pharmacies are "rogue" operations operating outside U.S. laws and regulations, according to a new report.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy issued its report, “Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: October 2012,” for which it analyzed more than 10,000 sites, finding 97% of them to operate “out of compliance with pharmacy laws and practice standards in the United States.” The report concluded that it was important for members of the international pharmacy community to protect patients worldwide from the potential dangers of illegal online drug sellers, noting that the illegal sites provide a way to sell counterfeit drugs.

Of the sites reviewed, 9,543 appeared to be affiliated with networks that obtain drugs from “questionable sources”; 4,832 offer drugs that are foreign or not approved by the Food and Drug Administration; 8,594 don't require valid prescriptions; 2,274 have physical addresses outside the United States, while most rogue sites post no address; and 3,708 are hosted on servers outside the United States.

The report gave an overview of recent collaborative efforts, including a 100-country Operation Pangea, which resulted in the shutdown of thousands of sites; an investigation by LegitScript.com, which gave the NABP and other organizations evidence that led to the shutdown of about 5,000 rogue sites; and a collaboration with Canadian regulators to extend the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites accreditation program to include Canadian websites selling drugs approved by Health Canada, that country's counterpart to the U.S. FDA; and a meeting with officials from China's State Food and Drug Administration to discuss prescription drug regulation, especially as it relates to the Internet. 

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