A recent international sting that shut down thousands of fake pharmacy websites now has some experts advising consumers to only buy online drugs from sites with the .pharmacy domain. That may or may not be sound advice. Either way, the .pharmacy domain means something to consumers who understand it.
As you know, domains are an important part of web addresses. They are the internet equivalent to street names. Domains tell web browsers where to find sites during their initial queries. Without domains, it would be impossible to keep track of the billions of pages now online.
As for the .pharmacy domain, it is a unique domain that serves a very important purpose. Needless to say, buying drugs from an online pharmacy with the domain is considered safer than one with another domain.
Established by the NABP
The .pharmacy domain was established by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to accommodate a growing number of online prescription drug sellers. Not just anyone can use it. You cannot go to a registrar and sign up for the domain like you can with .com, .net, .org, etc.
So, what’s the deal? An online pharmacy with the .pharmacy domain is a website that has been verified by the NABP. Being verified allows a website owner to advertise on well-known properties like Google and Yahoo! as verified safe sites. The domain proves a site demonstrates compliance with Digital Pharmacy Accreditation standards.
Perhaps most important is that most payment processors recognize the .pharmacy domain as eligible for card-not-present transactions. In other words, an online pharmacy and its operator do not have to undergo the additional scrutiny normally applied to high-risk merchants before they can accept payments.
Existing Websites Are Verified
It is important to note that the lack of a .pharmacy domain does not automatically mean an online pharmacy is illegitimate. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The NABP only reviews and verifies existing websites before approving the additional domain. That means they routinely review .com, .biz, etc. websites.
Canada Pharmacy is one example of a legitimate, accredited online pharmacy operating without the .pharmacy domain. Their domain is .com. If they were to be verified and approved by the NABP, they could actually use both domains simultaneously. As a side note, that is not a bad idea. Having multiple domains generally means more traffic.
Website operators must meet a lengthy list of requirements to be eligible for .pharmacy verification. This post will not go through all of them, but there are a few in particular that are important to consumers.
1. Proper Licensing
A .pharmacy applicant must have the proper licensing in force. As a general rule, online pharmacies are digital properties owned and operated by physical, dispensing pharmacies or drug manufacturers. Regardless of the entity ultimately responsible for a website’s operation, that entity must have its licenses in order and up to date.
2. Dispensing Standards
Applicants are only eligible if they meet certain dispensing requirements. For example, they are only allowed to dispense prescription medications with a valid prescription from a licensed medical provider. Any OTC products they dispense must be approved and must comply with regulations.
3. Disciplinary Standards
Applicants are usually not eligible if they have been subject to recent or repeated disciplinary actions by regulating authorities. In other words, an organization that does not follow law probably will not be approved.
You may be completely safe buying prescription medications from an online pharmacy with the .com or .biz domains. But buying from a pharmacy with the .pharmacy domain virtually guarantees you are dealing with a legitimate operation.