Applications to use the generic top-level internet domain “.pharmacy” will open by the end of 2014. The initiative will give patients, initially in the United States, confidence that they are obtaining medicines, health information and services from a legitimate pharmacy website.
Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), an international organisation that supports its member boards in protecting public health, said that the .pharmacy plan addresses widespread fears for patient health through illegal online sales. The initiative will restrict the use of .pharmacy domain names to legitimate operators that meet internet pharmacy practice standards in the countries where they operate.
Explaining the project to the council of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) at the FIP Congress in Bangkok, on 31 August 2014, Catizone said that registrants for the domain must be able to demonstrate adherence to all their local applicable laws and those where their patients live. The criteria for acceptance for the scheme comprise two elements: baseline standards, mandatory regardless of where the pharmacy website is based, and national standards.
Once approved, website operators will be monitored to ensure ongoing compliance with the NABP standards and will have to reapply each year. The evaluation fee for US applicants is US$2,000 and the registration fees for the .pharmacy domain name will be upward of US$750, paid annually, depending on the full name being registered.
More than 70 website operators have expressed an interest in the .pharmacy programme.
So far, only the United States has standards approved at the national level. Associations or regulatory bodies in other countries interested in developing standards can contact the NAPB (email@example.com).