.Pharmacy Domains and VIPPS

.Pharmacy Domains and VIPPS

HealthCare Consultants has helped numerous clients obtain their VIPPS accreditation and certification.  Now comes the .Pharmacy domain name from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and many pharmacy business owners are confused as to how it works. One of our in-house pharmacy consultants spent the time yesterday with a NABP consultant to get the facts on exactly how the certification and accreditation process works, plus get some clarity for our clients on the costs to participate in the program. We would like to quickly thank Ms. Gertrude Levine who works at the NABP as a Policy and Communications Project Manager for her patience and explanations regarding the details of participating in the VIPPS program and obtaining a .Pharmacy web domain. The NABP does provide some excellent information on their website, but since the .Pharmacy program has its own website, putting all the details together was very challenging, Here at HCC we have assisted several clients in obtaining their VIPPS accreditation, yet now the .Pharmacy domain requires additional expertise to achieve success.

The history and background of the VIPPS program –

The VIPPS program has been in existence since 1999 and stands for The Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. The program was initiated by the NABP to provide a way of accrediting pharmacies that sell and dispense prescription medications online via the Internet. As HCC has noted numerous times in the past, online and Internet pharmacies can pose a major safety threat to consumers who are trying to obtain their medications via an online pharmacy (both licit and illicit drugs). According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 96% of the almost 11,500 online pharmacies and Internet drug retailers reviewed by the board association were operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. Not only practicing outside of the laws and pharmacy standards in place to ensure public health safety, the NABP found that “many of them sell dangerous, unapproved, substandard, and counterfeit medicine”. Violations have included stolen personal and financial information, virus-laden spam e-mails and even online pharmacies selling pills that contain drywall or rat poison.
It is very important to note that one of the major contributors in the establishment of the VIPPS accreditation initiative was actually the Google search engine. Google makes the majority of its profit through Sponsored Ads and Advertising listings that appear in their search results. These are called Google AdWords (also commonly referred to as “pay-per-clicks by Internet marketers). Google utilizes a rather complex “bidding” system to display these advertising results to searchers and must receive a commendation in joining and enforcing the efforts to have safeguards instituted to protect their site visitors. Additionally, Google has strictly adhered to their policies regarding these AdWords and has chosen safety over profit in regards to the Internet pharmacy business. Although Google accounts for the majority of results in regards to the total search engine volume, both Bing and Yahoo also require VIPPS accreditation to participate in their pay-per-click online advertising programs for pharmacies and drugs.

.Pharmacy Domains –

In a continued effort to ensure consumer safety, the .Pharmacy domain was created. The .pharmacy domain is actually a piece of a website’s address and therefor cannot be “faked”. In essence the NABP became the clearinghouse for obtaining the new .Pharmacy domain. A pharmacy that wants to be certified must first fill out an application that is reviewed and approved (or rejected). It is crucial that this application form be filled out correctly. It is recommended that the pharmacy use a reputable Pharmacy Consulting Firm (such as HCC!) to have the best chance for being approved. Some of the factors that must be addressed in the application process include:
– All pharmacy licenses are in good standing with all State Boards of Pharmacy
– Pharmacy Managers (and all “pharmacist in charge”) are properly designated and in good standing when it comes to their licenses
– All preexisting disciplinary actions must addressed (and explained in detail if necessary)
– A written policies and procedures manual MUST be submitted for review
– The online pharmacy’s website MUST be in compliance with all of VIPPS standards
After submitting the application, the NABP will review within a 60 day time period and grant the applicant the ability to register the .pharmacy domain or request additional documentation. It is important to note that the applicant MUST provide a “working” secure site for review (or at the least a website on a development server). In other words, you cannot obtain approval first and develop the site afterwards.
Lastly, if approved for a .Pharmacy domain, the business then must apply and purchase the domain through one of the NABP approved domain registrars. currently there are 14 and you can click here to view the approved registrar list, It is interesting to note that the major Registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions are not on the list (and choose not to participate in the program because it is done manually and there will not be enough volume for them to make enough of a profit).

Fess and VIPPS Accreditation –

The initial fee is for the application. This fee is paid to the NABP and is $975 per site. So if you operate two separate sites for your business, you must apply twice and pay $1,950 (2 x $975). However, the application fee is based on the number of sites, not the number of domains that you want to buy. So if you would like to purchase more than just one domain for a site, then only one application fee is required.
If a pharmacy site already has VIPPS accreditation in place, then the application fee is waived. HOWEVER, even if you do already have VIPPS accreditation in place, you MUST submit your application to obtain the .Pharmacy domain by June 30, 2017. If you do not, then you will be charged the $995.

The next fee is for the . Pharmacy domain. This is paid directly to the Registrar as noted previously. Although no pricing is available online or posted on any of the NABP sites, after investigation it is $1,000 per domain annually. This is considerably expensive as opposed to regular domains which average about $15 each annually. It is also extremely important to be aware that there are what are being called “Premium Domains” that can be purchased. These “Premium Domains” include terms and words that are deemed “search engine lucrative” or easily remembered by consumers and are associated with a particular disease, generic medication, or general pharmacy related concept. These domains are in “high demand” and the actual cost is set by the registrar. There is no price list available regarding these domains and each one must be contracted for on an individual “first come basis” with the registrars.

Lastly is the VIPPS accreditation fee. The costs are based on the type of pharmacy and can be quickly summarized:
1. Community-based independent pharmacy only doing business in its home state and operating three or less stores: $6,000.
A $3,000 application fee (which includes the first year’s annual participation fee), plus a  3,000 survey fee.
2. A pharmacy with an Internet practice in three or less states and shipping to patients in only those three states: $5,000
A $2,000 application fee (which includes the first year’s annual participation fee), plus a  3,000 survey fee.
3. A Drugstore Mass Retailer, HMO Pharmacy or PBM Pharmacy; $8,000.
A $5,000 application fee (which includes the first year’s annual participation fee) plus a $3,000 survey fee.

Once again it is important to note that there may be additional fees involved. Each additional web domain (or URL) costs another $2,000 in the application fee or annual re-certification fees. This $2,000 fee may also be applied to any alterations to existing domains that NABP sees as “significant enough” to require confirmation of compliance with VIPPS criteria and standards.

Is the .Pharmacy Mandatory?

At this time the .Pharmacy domain is not mandatory. It is basically “business as usual” regarding operating and promoting an online pharmacy business. However, all VIPPS accredited pharmacy sites are being urged to obtain the .Pharmacy domain by June 30, 2017 to have the application fee of $975 to be waived. Additionally, those pharmacies that apply and are approved prior to June 30th will be included on the website that consumers will be advised to utilize to ensure that the online pharmacy they purchase prescriptions and drugs from are legitimate and safe.

Although being labeled as the “wave of the future”, the real key is Google. At this moment, Google requires the VIPPS accreditation to become automatically eligible to advertise on their site (as does Bing and Yahoo). BUT the current Google policies do NOT require the .Pharmacy domain for US and Canadian websites. We at HCC are watching how Google will react to this regarding their e-advertiser program and advise our clients appropriately.

If you are considering obtaining VIPPS accreditation or the new .Pharmacy domain, we urge you to contact Healthcare Consultants today! HCC is a full service Pharmacy Consulting firm that has been in business for over 27 years helping pharmacies plan, prepare and deal with business issues. HCC is owned and operated by pharmacists who are experts in the development and implementation of policies and procedures in all areas of Pharmacy practice. It is also a good opportunity for you to ensure that your pharmacy is in compliance with all state licensing requirements and to have all of your pharmacies’ policies and procedures reviewed by experts. Contact us on line or call us today at 800-642-1652  to discuss how we can help you.


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