For Fourth Straight Year, USTR Highlights the Role of Domain Name Registrars in Facilitating Illegal Online Drug Sales

May 23, 2019

By: Libby Baney and Matthew Rubin, Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting

On April 25, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), within the Executive Office of the President, released its 2018 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets report. Covering both online (33 total) and physical marketplaces (25 total), the report highlights a wide array of infringing parties – from individual operators to entire countries – that have been found to inadequately enforce intellectual property rights or engage in or promote significant examples of copyright piracy or trademark counterfeiting. Per USTR, nearly half a trillion dollars’ worth of imports into the US are counterfeit or pirated products.

Of particular interest to public health stakeholders, the 2018 report identified two rogue registrars responsible for hosting thousands of illegal online pharmacy websites: Hosting Concepts BV (dba Open Provider) and Regional Network Information Center JSC. Domiciled in the Netherlands and Russia, respectively, these two registrars were noted as responsible for hosting more than 3,400 known rogue online pharmacy websites. Consistent with the prior reports from 2015, 2016, and 2017, USTR continues to highlight the role that individual domain name registrars have in permitting – or turning a blind eye to – illegal online drug sellers and the immense public health and patient safety threats that persist.

USTR’s Notorious Markets Report and related global attention to the role of registrars have had an impact. Following the revocation of registrar Nanjing Imperiosus’s Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers accreditation in early 2017 and subsequent shutdown, the USTR notes that other registrars have become more proactive in combating illegal online drug sales. The report highlights efforts by Nics Telekomünikasyon Tic Ltd Şti, of Turkey; and CV Jogjacamp, of Indonesia.

In the 2019 report, both Hosting Concepts and Regional Network were cited for their non-responsiveness to user notifications of abuse within their platforms. This stands in contrast to USTR’s spotlight on several “good actor” registrars that took action in response to reports of abuse or illegal conduct. The report also referenced the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies’ Internet Pharmacy Safety E-Commerce Award given to Realtime Register and Rightside in 2017. USTR further encourages all domain name registry partners and ancillary hosting providers to “employ and enforce policies that curb the online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”

With nearly half of all illegal internet drug sales linked to 10 registrars, it remains critical that patients, caregivers, health care providers, and other consumers remain educated on the available resources to stay safe online. Organizations verified through NABP’s .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program are doing their part to ensure that the public can easily find safe and legitimate websites.