LegitScript Merchant and Website Classifications Guide
LegitScript assigns a legitimacy classification to websites and merchants selling supplements, pharmaceuticals, and other products or services. The core principle: the merchant should comply with laws and regulations where it is located, as well as the laws and regulations in each jurisdiction where it serves customers.
In the interests of public health, LegitScript’s legitimacy classifications for Internet pharmacies and eyewear retailer websites are searchable from LegitScript’s home page. For other merchant types, the legitimacy classifications are a component of our monitoring services for payment processors, e-commerce websites, and other platforms.
As a general matter, we put merchants and websites in four main categories:
- Rogue. This means that the merchant’s primary purpose is to engage in some sort of illegal, unsafe, or misleading activity, like selling prescription drugs or contact lenses without requiring a prescription, defrauding customers, or selling counterfeit goods. We recommend that payment processors, search engines, registrars, and e-commerce platforms terminate services to these entities.
- Unapproved. This denotes some problem with regulatory compliance or risk, but is typically less egregious than “rogue.” These sometimes include merchants who are operating legally in one jurisdiction but not in others. Most unapproved healthcare merchants are disallowed from search engine advertising, major e-commerce platforms, and payment processing until they address the regulatory problem.
- Unverified (or, for some merchants, “Inapplicable”). These are neutral descriptors and usually denote the absence of an obvious problem. Many “unverified” merchants are those that, at first blush, appear eligible for certification, but have not been subjected to our certification or voluntary monitoring programs.
- Legitimate. This is available only to merchants and websites eligible for one of LegitScript’s certification programs (currently online pharmacies and eyewear), and verifies that the merchant or website has passed LegitScript certification criteria.
LegitScript Healthcare Product Classifications
How do you know if a supplement, cosmetic or other similar product is being legally sold or marketed? LegitScript maintains the world’s largest, most authoritative database that classifies such products by type and safety profile or legality. There are four general categories of products:
- Red Flag. These products should not be marketed or sold because they (1) contain ingredients that are not permitted or otherwise restricted in certain jurisdictions; (2) are unsafe or have no currently accepted medical use with a high potential for abuse; (3) are tainted with toxins or active pharmaceutical ingredients; (4) intrinsically imply the efficacy of an approved drug or controlled substance; or (5) are marketed or used for psychoactive purposes.
- Orange Flag. These products are not always illegal, but have significant restrictions for online sales (e.g., most controlled substances, discontinued drugs, listed chemicals, etc.).
- Yellow Flag. These products are not known to contain a toxin or active pharmaceutical ingredient, but are, or have been, marketed with claims that drug safety or consumer protection agencies have found to be illegal (for example, supplements marketed as disease treatments). These products can be marketed if not accompanied by the problematic claims. A Yellow Flag may also indicate that a manufacturer has reformulated a Red Flag product to remove a problematic ingredient (for example, a Yellow Flag may indicate that an older version of a dietary supplement contains a Red Flag ingredient). LegitScript also classifies certain prescription drugs in the United States as Yellow Flag. In the US, drugs must be FDA-approved or meet an approval exemption. Thus, some prescription-only drugs may be “unapproved” by the FDA — but are still tacitly permitted to be sold. Typically, these products claim to be exempt as either a grandfathered or Drug Efficacy Study Implementation (DESI) drug. Although it is not approved, it is still permitted to be sold in the US, provided that it is sold by a licensed pharmacy pursuant to a valid prescription. Learn more about Yellow Flags.
- Green Flag. A Green Flag is reserved for prescription and Over-The-Counter drugs that have been permitted for sale by a regulatory authority. It should be noted that one drug may be “approved” in one jurisdiction but “unapproved” in another.
As part of our monitoring services, LegitScript makes our full product classifications (including Yellow Flag information) available in bulk to payment processors, search engines, and other partners along with twice-a-month updates. Contact us for pricing.