Watching Out For The Consumer: The VIPPS Program
Every major industry that has a significant presence on the Internet should have some sort of regulatory organization to protect customers. For the world of gambling, there is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and eCOGRA,and for online pharmacies, there is the VIPPS program. However, it should be noted that the VIPPS program does not have jurisdiction over pharmacies based outside US territory.
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This article deals with
reputable online drug store
The Internet is not the sort of place that is easy to regulate. In fact, some people believe attempting to regulate the Internet is downright impossible. However, various industries and businesses that have a presence on the Internet have established organizations and protocols to help them self-police their activities. For example, the casino industry has the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and eCOGRA, which regulate and accredit online casinos and gambling establishments, and whose seals have been taken as a sign of being a reputable, legitimate online gambling operation. For those who wish to tell a reputable online drug store from the chaff, there is an equivalent organization.
The prevalence of online pharmacies has made it necessary for some sort of governing body to be established, or at least some sort of regulatory standard to be put into place. In the interest of helping the public tell a reputable online drug store from a possible scam, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has established a licensure and accreditation program for online pharmacies. This program, known as the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program, has the responsibility of reviewing online pharmacies and checking whether or not the businesses are legitimate and operate within a certain acceptable standard.
The program is open to all US-based Internet pharmacy operations for applications, but the review process is designed to weed out as many ineffective and potentially illegitimate sites as possible. Part of the regulations that must be adhered to before a license can be granted by VIPPS is that the applicant site must not violate any medical or legal regulations found on the states that it operates or sells pharmaceutical products in. This includes laws regarding patient privacy, quality assurance for all products delivered, transaction security, and the appropriate regulations and limitations on any controlled substances being sold on the site.
Any sites that manage to successfully pass through the application process are granted the right of placing a seal on their website. This seal is to allow consumers to know that the site has been checked and their services verified, marking them as a reputable online drug store. In essence, any online pharmacy that does not display this on their site could potentially be a fraudulent site, or failed to meet the standards set by the program. In either case, there is assumed to be considerable risk to any consumer that does business with such a website.
There is a major flaw in the concept, however. Unlike eCOGRA (an online casino regulatory organization) and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, however, VIPPS does not have any authority regarding online pharmacies that are based outside, or operate outside, the US. Theoretically, the VIPPS program has jurisdiction over any pharmacy that can physically operate (i.e. deliver orders) within the US, but this authority is both questioned by the international community and very difficult to enforce. As such, if a consumer is considering purchasing from a pharmacy based outside the US, there is very little that can be done in the event of a problem.