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Group passes the initial ICANN evaluation; will NABP be the international policeman of online pharmacies?
Last week, the National Assn. of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP; Mt. Prospect, IL) announced that it had met the next step in evaluations by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a process that began about a year ago when ICANN opened up bidding for what are known as global top-level domains (gTLDs)—the suffixes to internet addresses like .com, .gov, or .org. ICANN is evaluated almost 2,000 gTLDs that were received last year, in a process that involves responses to a lengthy list of questions that ICANN poses, and a commitment by the ultimate owner of the gTLD to manage its use appropriately in cyberspace.
NABP’s stated goal in owning .Pharmacy is to minimize or prevent the proliferation of illegal or illicit online pharmacies, which (in the US) sell drugs without proper prescriptions, and are rife with counterfeit or adulterated products. NABP’s most recent surveying shows that 97% of online pharmacies violate one or more rules of drug dispensing; NABP has also been at the forefront of establishing the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) certification for legitimate online pharmacies, of which there are now over 80. “The .PHARMACY gTLD shall serve as a trusted, hierarchical, and intuitive namespace for legitimate Internet pharmacies,” wrote NABP in its initial application. "All registrants within this gTLD will be vetted prior to registration to ensure that they meet all applicable regulatory standards, including pharmacy licensure, drug authenticity, and valid prescription requirements." NAPB is supported by several pharma companies and the International Pharmacetutical Federation, among others, in this effort.
The ICANN undertaking promises to alter how much of online digital traffic, potentially, will be routed around the Internet; there could be a marketing value comparable to some of the best-known dot-com addresses. A list of all the applicants is available (of which a couple hundred, so far, have been approved, and a smaller number rejected or withdrawn). Interestingly, several pharma companies have applied for their own gTLDs, including .Pfizer, .Merck, and .Otsuka; Abbott applied for both .Abbot and .Abbvie. gTLDs for major logistics companies, inlcuding .DHL, .FedEx and .UPS have been applied for. And dominant retailer Walmart has applied for .Walmart, .SamsClub and, paradoxically, .George.
NABP expects all registration processes for .Pharmacy ownership to be resolved by year-end.