Stamping Out Illegal Prescription Drugs, One Innovative New gTLD at a Time

FairWinds Partners —  March 24, 2012

ICANN’s New gTLD Program represents an unprecedented change to the domain name space in that this is the first time we have seen such a massive opening of the top level. Previous rounds, notably the 2001 and 2004 introductions of new gTLDs, resulted in a comparatively miniscule number of new extensions, as compared to the estimated 1,000+ new gTLDs that could result from this current application period.

This has led many observers to wonder, what really is the point of all these new extensions? What can they really do that is so different from what the current group of gTLDs and ccTLDs can do?

Some have argued that the answer to that second question is, in a word, nothing. New gTLDs are simply a new set of Internet labels. Others have assured that those critics are wrong, and that new gTLDs will foster innovation.

As much as we would love to be able to call this fight right now, the answer still remains to be seen. We will have to wait until new gTLD registry operators actually begin using their new gTLDs to know whether or not new gTLDs, as a whole are more innovative than their older counterparts.

But for now, we can say with a high degree of confidence that at least one new gTLD is poised to actually make a vast improvement in the way patients search for prescription drugs online.

FairWinds is working with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) to submit an application for a .PHARMACY gTLD. This is a community-based application submitted on behalf of the pharmacy community, including independent community pharmacies, chain drug stores, Internet pharmacies, schools and colleges of pharmacy, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and wholesale distributors of prescription medications, for the benefit of the health care community and patients worldwide. The goal of .PHARMACY is to provide those individuals – pharmacists, doctors, nurses, caregivers, patients, and others – a secure space in which to search for information about or purchase prescription drugs online without having to worry about cybercrime or receiving counterfeit drugs.

Currently, online pharmacies rely on the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesCM (VIPPS®) accreditation program, to demonstrate to Internet users that they are safe and legitimate sites. VIPPS-accredited pharmacies are identified by the VIPPS seal that is displayed on their sites. While the authentic VIPPS seal links to the NABP website, the problem is, illegal online drug peddlers can, and do, simply copy the VIPPS logo and paste it on their sites to dupe unwitting consumers.

By contrast, by operating .PHARMACY as a restricted registry, NABP can properly vet each and every .PHARMACY site to ensure that it truly is legitimate, and can take enforcement action against any that do not meet its standards. It will also rely on LegitScript to verify, monitor, and enforce against rogue sites. These efforts, when combined with a public awareness campaign, can go a long way in protecting Internet users from the dangers posed by illegal online drug sellers and harmful counterfeit drugs.

We have enjoyed helping all our clients pursue their new gTLDs, but we are particularly proud of helping to prepare the .PHARMACY application because we believe this will truly be an innovative new extension.