Online Pharmacy Verification Programs
Google, Yahoo! and Bing currently require that all online pharmacies wishing to advertise in the United States be certified using the National Association Boards of Pharmacy VIPPS program.
NABP VIPPS Program: (1999 – Present)
The Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program was developed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) in the spring of 1999 as a means to identify to the public those online pharmacy practice sites that are appropriately licensed, are legitimately operating via the Internet, and that have successfully completed a rigorous criteria review and survey. NABP states that the VIPPS accreditation program is a "strong indicator of an Internet pharmacy’s compliance with state and federal laws and regulations and NABP's criteria."
Online Pharmacy Verification and Accreditation Processes
As part of the accreditation process, NABP verifies that all necessary state pharmacy licenses are in good standing, verifies that licenses held by the pharmacist-in-charge are in good standing, and evaluates the pharmacy’s documentation including policies and procedures.
Point #5 of the documentation is important in its regard to Internet prescribing:
5. Maintain and enforce policies and procedures that assure the integrity, legitimacy, and authenticity of the Prescription Drug Order and seek to prevent Prescription Drug Orders from being submitted, honored, and filled by multiple pharmacies. Maintain and enforce policies and procedures that assure that prescription medications are not prescribed or dispensed based upon telephonic, electronic, or online medical consultations without there being a pre-existing patient-prescriber relationship that has included an in-person physical examination.
In the FAQ section of VIPPS, the 12th question asks "Who regulates online pharmacies?" The response states:
"The state boards of pharmacy have primary responsibility for regulation of online pharmacies. Regulatory authority is mainly exercised by the state board of pharmacy of the state in which the pharmacy is physically located"
By its own accord, VIPPS has stated that the regulatory authority is largely implemented by the state board of pharmacy where the pharmacy is physically located. The NABP VIPPS site (www.nabp.net) contains information about each pharmacy they have accredited. VIPPS pharmacy sites can be recognized by a VIPPS seal found on their site.
VIPPS Fee Schedule
Application fees run between $5,000 and $8,000 depending on the type of pharmacy. Annual fees run between $2,000 and $4,000 on non-survey years depending on the type of pharmacy. Pharmacies are surveyed every three years and on survey years an additional $3,000 fee is paid.
Pharmacy Checker Verification and Online Pharmacy Verification
Prior to VIPPS Google, Yahoo!, and Bing required any online pharmacy advertising on their search engines to be verified by the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.
PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program (June 2006 – February 2010)
PharmacyChecker.com was founded by a medical doctor in 2003 to help consumers safely save money on medication. The site independently checks the credentials of online pharmacies and allows consumers to easily compare drug prices. The PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program (PharmacyChecker) was established to help consumers find qualified online pharmacies. The PharmacyChecker Seal indicates that a website markets prescription drugs dispensed from a pharmacy in good standing. The program is open to all licensed pharmacies, including retail, wholesale and HMO pharmacies, online pharmacy intermediaries and referral sites affiliated with verified pharmacies, and veterinary pharmacies.
Online Pharmacy Basic Verification Applicant Requirements
- Valid pharmacy license in U.S., Canada, or other accepted country.
- Valid U.S. DEA registration if selling controlled substances.
- Original prescription required.
- Correct contact information on site.
- Acceptance of Pharmacy Standards Agreement.
In June 2006, PharmacyChecker replaced SquareTrade’s licensed pharmacy program for online pharmacies wishing to advertise on Google and Yahoo!. In November 2006, MSN joined Google and Yahoo! and also began requiring PharmacyChecker certification. Over time, PharmacyChecker.com began to approve “Canadian websites” selling low cost medications to United States citizens. Even though these Canadian online pharmacies required customers to have an existing prescription from their doctor, many of these prescriptions were being dispensed by pharmacies located in Russia, India and other locations known for counterfeit medications.
The NABP collaborated with LegitScript to track many of the illegal and “rogue” websites which were advertising on Google, Yahoo! and Bing (MSN’s rebranded Search Engine). The sites often linked to offshore websites selling illegal drugs. In 2009, LegitScript wrote several white papers in conjunction with KnujOn, an anti-spam and domain policy compliance group. The reports explained that Google, Yahoo! and Bing were benefitting from illegal enterprises advertising on their websites. In August 2009, LegitScript provided analysis on the current pharmacy environment on Yahoo! and Bing. To learn more about LegitScript and its policies click here.There is another regulatory program called PharmacyChecker.com.One of the online pharmacies that is approved by PharmacyChecker.com and is actually legally allowed to both prescribe and fulfill drugs for erectile dysfunction like Viagra is KwikMed.com. With companies like KwikMed.com, you can be assured that your medication, such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, is actually genuine and NOT potentially harmful.
As a result, in February 2010 Google announced that the VIPPS accreditation program would replace PharmacyChecker as the online pharmacy accreditation program. In June 2010, Yahoo! and Bing also announced they would also replace PharmacyChecker with VIPPS.