In early June, the FDA issued warnings to nine online networks that operate 53 pharmaceutical websites for marketing unapproved opioid medications, threatening police action and worse, possibly imposing embargos.
For online pharmacy and nutraceutical merchants, as well as internet merchant account processors that provide the payment solutions for such, the warnings issued to those 53 pharmacies should be heeded. According to a webinar titled, Pharma & Drugs in 2018: An Update from G2 and the NABP, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are said to begin paying closer attention to the sale of certain types of drugs and treatments.
The webinar was presented by G2 Web Services, a risk intelligence solution provider, and was presented by Lianne Sanders, Client Services Manager at G2, and Marty Allain, Senior Manager at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP).
Alarming numbers to digest
Ms. Sanders and Mr. Allain offered some disconcerting figures throughout the webinar:
- 100 percent: Percentage of the 100 websites selling medications to U.S. consumers that are operating illegally in some capacity, according to a 2017 report.
- 54 percent: Of the NABP-evaluated online pharmacies that sell controlled substances.
- 35,000: Estimated amount of drug sellers online, not including the dark web.
- 96 percent: Among those 35,000 that are unlicensed and operating illegally.
5 areas where feds are watching
- Opioids: Hardly surprising, the opioid crisis continues to rage in the U.S., and federal regulators continue to play watchdog over the internet sale of opioids. The feds aren’t just watching over internet pharmacies, however; they’re also scrutinizing shipping partners and internet merchant account processors who are, likely unknowingly, offering their services. Transaction laundering is rife in the online sale of opioids, ever contributing to the crisis.
- Homeopathic drugs: The online sale of homeopathic drugs, those not taken orally or topically, is drawing the feds’ attention due to rogue pharmacies and merchants targeting senior citizens and children – those most likely to be manipulated for sales.
- Topical treatments: Online pharmacies seeking internet merchant account processing should stray from three types of topical ‘treatments’ – skin lightening/whitening, anti-aging and eyelash growth – because the majority of these topicals are not FDA approved. Pharmacy merchants not disclosing ingredients or percentages presents a major red flag, and merchant service providers are advised to steer clear.
- Research chemicals and peptides: Widely used among body builders for energy and muscle building, internet merchant account processors are smart to steer clear of merchants selling research chemicals and peptides when they exhibit the following characteristics, said G2:
- Advertisements in online bodybuilding forums
- Limited amount of product offerings
- Disclaimers such as ‘not for human consumption’ or ‘for research purposes only’
- Injectable drugs: Injectable drugs and drug kits are rarely for sale without a prescription – in the U.S. or worldwide. Moreover, injectable drugs for skin whitening or tanning, are not only illegal, but very dangerous. Merchants offering such are likely doing so illegally.
Internet merchant account processors should take note
Due to the nature of the industry and an abundance of bad actors, the online pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries will always be under some type of scrutiny. For online pharmacies that conduct their businesses legally and legitimately with the proper licensing and certifications, Instabill leads all internet merchant account processors with a breadth of reliable merchant services solutions.
Specifically with prospective pharmaceutical and nutraceutical merchants, we prefer to engage in a 10- minute one-on-one conversation to discuss your business model and which of our pharmacy merchant account solutions might be the best fit.
Our merchant account managers are on hand Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Any inquiries left after business hours will be returned the next business day.