New York Times Looks at Improvements in Online Pharmacy Industry
The New York Times on Sunday examined the "improvements in the online pharmacy industry since its birth in the 1990s and the pitfalls and confusion that remain in ordering prescription drugs" over the Internet. Richard Cleland, assistant director of the division of advertising practices for the Federal Trade Commission, said, "Online pharmacies have gotten much more sophisticated than they were in 1999." Consumers can save up to 25% on prescription drugs, according to some studies, but on some sites, medications are up to five times more costly than they are at pharmacies, the Times reports. Oversight of online pharmacies has been increasing on both a federal and an industry level. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has listed on its Web site 12 online pharmacies, such as Drugstore.com and CVS.com, that have "passed a voluntary certification program," including an onsite inspection. In addition, some Internet pharmacies have launched their own accreditation programs, including the North American Pharmacy Accreditation Commission, which has 68 mostly Canadian members. Paul Fischer, who co-founded the commission, said, "A lot of people are looking at customer service issues in [the online pharmacy] industry, so we act as a go-between." Still Carmen Catizone, executive director of NABP, and others say that sites' self-regulation efforts are "nothing more than thinly veiled marketing aimed at bolstering credibility with consumers," the Times reports (Siwolop, New York Times, 9/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.