MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill., May 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Reaching a critical milestone in the generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) approval process, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy ® (NABP ®) application to own and operate the .PHARMACY domain suffix has passed the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) initial evaluation. NABP intends to launch the .PHARMACY gTLD by the end of 2013, and will make the new domain available to legitimate online pharmacies and related entities that are located in the United States as well as in other countries. Passing ICANN's initial evaluation is a key success in realizing the Association's vision – established in partnership with a global coalition of stakeholders – of creating a secure and trustworthy online space for pharmacy, benefiting consumers around the world. Having reached this key point, NABP will now work toward operationalizing the .PHARMACY gTLD program, as it awaits the final stages of ICANN's evaluation process. Next steps in the process include execution of the registry agreement with ICANN and performance of pre-delegation testing, which ensures that NABP and its technical partners have the capacity to operate the new .PHARMACY gTLD in a stable and secure manner. "Passing this hurdle in the .PHARMACY application process is a significant success in NABP's initiative to establish a safe online space that will benefit patients and the health care community around the world. With the online distribution of counterfeit and substandard medications posing a growing threat to consumers, NABP is extremely pleased to move forward with its plans for the .PHARMACY gTLD," states NABP President Karen M. Ryle, MS, RPh. "By distinguishing .PHARMACY as a domain space exclusively for appropriately licensed, legitimate Internet pharmacies operating in compliance with international pharmacy standards, NABP aims to protect the global public health from dangers of substandard drugs distributed by rogue online sellers." With the support of a global coalition of stakeholders, including international pharmacy organizations, regulators, industry experts, and law enforcement agencies, NABP applied to ICANN in June 2012 to own and operate the .PHARMACY gTLD. This global coalition shares the Association's concern about illegal online drug sellers distributing products that endanger patient health worldwide. Thus, in its application, NABP stated the importance of ensuring that only legitimate Web site operators that adhere to pharmacy laws in the jurisdictions in which they are based and to which they sell medicine will be able to register domain names in .PHARMACY. NABP continues to monitor Web sites selling prescription drugs to patients in the U.S. and as of April 2013, has reviewed over 10,400 Internet drug outlets and found 97% of them to be out of compliance with pharmacy laws and practice standards established in the US to protect the public health. Of these 10,082 Web sites identified as Not Recommended, nearly half offer foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to US residents, and many of these distribute dangerous counterfeits to unsuspecting consumers. Further, health and regulatory agencies in the US and abroad have reported cases of patients harmed by counterfeit, substandard, and adulterated medications distributed by illegal Internet sellers. The .PHARMACY application was submitted as part of ICANN's expansion of available gTLDs, which currently include familiar suffixes such as .edu, .gov, and .com. Stakeholders that support NABP's application include many groups in the global pharmacy community. Among the coalition of stakeholders behind this initiative are the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, Eli Lilly and Company, European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Gilead Sciences, Inc, International Pharmaceutical Federation, INTERPOL, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc, LegitScript, Merck/MSD, National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, and state boards of pharmacy.