IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets


  • Roger Bate
  • Ginger Zhe Jin
  • Aparna Mathur


This paper uses an audit sample and a consumer survey to study the intriguing market of online prescription drugs facing US customers, and assesses the role that certification agencies play in online drug markets. On the supply side, we acquire samples of five popular brand-name prescription drugs from three types of online pharmacies: tier 1 are US-based and certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) or, tier 2 are certified by or the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) but not by NABP or LegitScript, tier 3 are not certified by any of the four agencies. Most tier 2 and tier 3 websites are foreign. We find that 37 of the 365 delivered samples are different from the products we ordered and therefore non-testable. Conditional on testable samples, Raman spectrometry test finds no failure of authenticity except for 8 Viagra samples from tier-3 websites. After controlling for testability and authenticity, tier 2 websites are 49.2% cheaper (p

Suggested Citation

  • Roger Bate & Ginger Zhe Jin & Aparna Mathur, 2012. "In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets," NBER Working Papers 17955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17955
    Note: IO

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-483, December.
    2. Sanjeev Dewan & Vernon Hsu, 2004. "Adverse Selection In Electronic Markets: Evidence From Online Stamp Auctions," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 497-516, December.
    3. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    4. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2004. "Price Dispersion In The Small And In The Large: Evidence From An Internet Price Comparison Site," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 463-496, December.
    5. Bradley S. Wimmer & Brian Chezum, 2003. "An Empirical Examination of Quality Certification in a "Lemons Market"," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(2), pages 279-291, April.
    6. Cantor, Richard & Packer, Frank, 1997. "Differences of opinion and selection bias in the credit rating industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1395-1417, October.
    7. Bate, Roger & Jin, Ginger Zhe & Mathur, Aparna, 2011. "Does price reveal poor-quality drugs? Evidence from 17 countries," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1150-1163.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Matthew Chesnes & Weijia (Daisy) Dai & Ginger Zhe Jin, 2014. "Banning Foreign Pharmacies from Sponsored Search: The Online Consumer Response," NBER Working Papers 20088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17955. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.