Something unexpected happened at a dog and pony show staged at the National Press Club on April 4, where the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) gave its campaign against prescription drug importation and international online pharmacies the imprimatur of technocratic expertise. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach, in opposing importation as unsafe, and “frightening” said that 29 countries have regulatory systems for drug safety comparable to the U.S. Was that a mistake? No. We need to get that list of 29 countries and create standards for distribution and refine guidance for consumers to help more Americans import lower cost medications from those countries.
I derived the number 29 because Dr. Eschenbach said: “of the 96 countries around the world that can supply drugs only 30% have a functional regulatory infrastructure that’s comparable to the one that we have at the Food and Drug Administration.” Simple math showed 30% of 96 is 28.8. I rounded to 29!
Granted, Dr. Eschenbach would say that I was taking his words out of context. (more…)
In her new book, American Sickness, Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, an award-winning journalist, currently chief editor of Kaiser Health News, and formerly with the New York Times, recommends visiting PharmacyChecker.com to consumers who choose to import more affordable medications for themselves or their family members via online pharmacies.
In general, Ms. Rosenthal’s book explains why our healthcare system is such a mess in terms of consumer and government costs; who is responsible; how we can make things better – and most importantly – what consumers can do NOW to take on the special interests and save money. It’s a great book for citizens, healthcare advocates and policy makers who want a deeper understanding of what ails our healthcare system. (more…)
The head of LegitScript.com, John Horton, likes to falsely claim that PharmacyChecker “pretends” that international online pharmacies are “just Canadian” when they “really” sell drugs from other countries. The only one pretending, as usual, is Mr. Horton.
To be sure this is done properly, the online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker must disclose to us all partner pharmacies — as we must check and verify their credentials — and the online pharmacies are required to let consumers know, ahead of time, the country from which their medications will be dispensed. Furthermore, our listing of PharmacyChecker.com Verified Online Pharmacies includes the names of the countries from which each online pharmacy dispenses prescription medications.
Of course, there are many rogue pharmacies to watch out for that claim to be Canadian, or even American, but don’t require a prescription, and are not verified for any standards by any organization. We should all work together to protect consumers from such rogues, not fool Americans into believing that safe international online pharmacies don’t exist – which appears to be the approach favored by Mr. Horton, LegitScript, and Pharma-funded groups.
We assume that John Horton and his big pharma allies and shills will continue to attack us because of our continuing efforts to verify and identify the safest international online pharmacies, advocate for safe personal drug importation, reveal pharma’s scare tactics and expose their lies. We can deal with that. It’s just a shame that they do it at the expense of Americans who need affordable medication but may be scared away from the reliable pharmacies that are available.
Defending consumer rights to affordable medication on the Internet (left to right: Gabriel Levitt, Jeremy Malcom, Andrew Goldman, Burcu Kilic, Paul Zickler)
Access to medicines and Internet rights advocates came together yesterday for a panel at the RightsCon conference in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the importance of, and threats to, online access to safe and affordable medication. In my capacities as president of PharmacyChecker.com and founder of Prescription Justice, I submitted the concept for this panel to RightsCon, a conference that focuses on issues relating to human rights and the Internet, such as freedom of expression, curbing violent extremism, and privacy and data protection.
The panel included Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Andrew Goldman, Knowledge Ecology International; Burcu Kilic, Public Citizen; Paul Zickler, Canadian International Pharmacy Association, and Gabriel Levitt. We came together to push back against the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to control what is and is not permissible on the Internet when it comes to medication sales and the importation of prescription drugs for personal use.
My presentation’s focus was on the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to afford medication and how the Internet provides them with access to lower cost medication imported for personal use. I will follow-up with a more detailed report on the panel discussions and a workshop that followed, where we drafted a Statement of Principles for the online sale of medication, one inspired by the belief that access to affordable medications is an essential component to the fundamental human right to health.
This week, LegitScipt’s John Horton blogged with apparent glee about charges by the U.S Attorney’s Office for Western Pennsylvania implicating several Canadian individuals and their company, Quantum Solutions, for allegedly exporting wholesale quantities of medications manufactured for foreign markets to U.S. pharmacists between 2007 and 2011.
Horton makes the mistake of saying that the case involved charges against an internet pharmacy certified by PharmacyChecker, but this is not the case. No online pharmacy is charged in the case, let alone any online pharmacy verified by PharmacyChecker.
Horton also states that the case involved the shipment of “bad” medicine, but there is nothing in the court documents indicating a problem with the quality of any of medications. Their labeling was apparently for the countries where they were being sold, which makes them “misbranded” if sold in the U.S. but not “bad” medicine. The drugs involved were expensive brand name drugs like Abilify, Zyprexa, and Plavix, costing hundreds of dollars per month in the U.S. but normally 80-90% lower in price outside the U.S. — which is likely what motivated the U.S. pharmacists to allegedly purchase the medication from abroad.
John Horton’s blog shows that in the world of online pharmacies, one party you can’t trust for reliable information is John Horton.
A very strange thing about the government’s filing in this case is an attachment listing website domains, a few of which are for international online pharmacies verified in our program. There is no claim of wrongdoing by any of these sites. The filing explains that these website addresses are property which the U.S. government seeks to have forfeited by the defendants in the event of a conviction, as the addresses may have been purchased with proceeds of the alleged offense. Certainly there are other assets owned by the defendants that our government could seek, so why focus on these uninvolved websites? It would seem that if these websites were taken by the government, the public would lose access to several safe, low-cost pharmacies.
Not surprisingly, John Horton misrepresents at least one of these pharmacies as being “the subject of today’s criminal charges” (more lies). Horton goes further by posting this list of websites to his blog in what we see as an attempt to smear the reputations of these uninvolved sites and part of his ongoing tactics to scare Americans away from safe and affordable medication and keep us hostage to inflated drug prices at home.
Yes. Last week, the four most recent commissioners of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent an open letter to Congress declaring that an importation bill, The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Bob Casey, if passed, would jeopardize consumer safety. The bill, as described here, provides for an extensive oversight role for the FDA to help individuals and pharmacies import lower cost medications from Canada.
Don’t get me wrong: the former FDA leaders make pertinent points about regulatory issues implicated in reforming our importation laws, which should be noted – and then used to implement new regulations to expand importation from Canada – not used to pretend safe importation is impossible.
Thankfully, when the Washington Post covered this last week, they included something I said to the reporter: “The Internet has been a lifeline of affordable medicines, imported for personal use by using safe international online pharmacies that require valid prescriptions…” And if I had more to say… (more…)
PharmacyChecker.com-Approved Online Pharmacies will require your valid prescription.
One of the hallmarks of a safe international online pharmacy – or a domestic-only online pharmacy – is the requirement of a valid prescription, one that a customer obtains locally from his or her doctor or other licensed practitioner during an in-person medical consultation. Whereas rogue online pharmacies, domestic and international, sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription or they offer a bogus remote medication consultation with an anonymous doctor. Most people looking to buy medications online are seeking lower prices; others do it because they can’t afford to see a provider or their providers won’t write the prescription they want.
A recent survey found that 76% of people who imported a drug for personal use that was ordered online had a prescription for the medication. Lower drug prices on a website that doesn’t require a prescription may be a prescription for disaster, as I’ll explain below. But for people who are ordering online with a prescription, the international savings can be a lifeline because medication costs so much less outside the U.S.
The survey on drug prices and importation was conducted by Zogby Analytics, commissioned by Prescription Justice and has a margin of error of +/-3.1%. Extrapolating the percentages to the general adult population we find 27 million Americans say that they have ordered medication online, imported for personal use; 20.5 million had a prescription; 6.5 million did not have a prescription. The number 20.5 million is surprisingly close to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey that showed about 19 million Americans say they import medication for personal use because of cost. (more…)
The executive director of Prescription Justice, Jodi Dart, published an op-ed in Morning Consult earlier this week called The Rx Rip-Off. The piece does contain Ms. Dart’s opinions but there are also some facts reported, ones based on a Zogby poll on drug prices commissioned by Prescription Justice. The poll shows that 90% of Americans are united on the need for the government to take action to make medication more affordable! As an incredible coincidence, President Trump tweeted just hours after the op-ed was published that “Pricing for the American people will come way down!”
There’s a lot in this poll that I look forward to writing about but let’s consider some of the broad findings of the poll:
75.5% of Americans agree with President Trump that the “drug companies are getting away with murder:
29.6% of Americans say they have not filled a prescription because of cost.
4.2% say they currently get prescription medication from a Canadian or other international online pharmacy.
77% of respondents who had an opinion on the issue of importation laws (522 out of 674) supported reforms so that consumers could lawfully purchase medicines from Canada or other countries.
Only 15% of respondents were actually against legalizing personal drug importation (23% of those who had an opinion).
Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate called the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, which, if passed, would legalize the importation of lower cost medications from Canada, by wholesalers for re-sale and individuals for personal use. I support this bill as a great step in the right direction to reign in drug prices. The bill’s sponsors, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Bob Casey (D-PA) are to be commended. Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced a companion bill in the House. You can watch the press conference announcing the new importation legislation above.
If passed, the new bill directs the FDA to finally help Americans do what they do already, but they would have new FDA assurances, which is purchase lower cost medication from safe international online pharmacies. It also would allow wholesalers in the U.S. to buy medications at lower cost from FDA-registered Canadian wholesalers, so that U.S. retail pharmacies can charge lower prices, too, which will mean fewer international, online retail sales.
For the last 15 years, we’ve been verifying international online pharmacies, ones that extend beyond Canada, and comparing their prices. Empirical and peer-reviewed literature studying online pharmacies demonstrates the significant savings consumers find through safe importation. We know for a fact this works. (more…)
Since Americans started importing medications for personal use in larger numbers at the beginning of the last decade, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Big Pharma, has engaged in media and government relations scare tactics to try and stop them. Apparently, when it comes to foreign versions of the new FDA-Approved Emflaza, which treats Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, one board member of PhRMA supports importation!
Last week, I wrote about the decision of drug company Marathon Pharmaceuticals to postpone selling Emflaza over pricing concerns and how the issue shines a bright light on the benefits of personal drug importation. To summarize: some folks are outraged because Emflaza (deflazacort) was launched at a price of $89,000 for a one year supply. This seems insane when foreign versions of deflazacort, which cost 1% that amount (less than $1000), are already imported for personal use.
PhRMA is trying to distance itself from Marathon, just like it did with Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turning Pharmaceuticals, when the price of Daraprim jumped from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight. The CEO of Marathon, Jeff Aronin, however, sits on PhRMA’s Board of Directors! Last week, John Carroll of Endpoints News predicted last week that Aronin might be dropped. As of today, he’s still there.
Mr. Aronin wrote a letter to the Duchenne community that fully acknowledged American kids were already being treated with an unapproved foreign version of deflazacort. In his words: “As we all know, deflazacort was being used without FDA approval — and without ever having been approved anywhere in the world for Duchenne — by a very small group of patients (roughly 7 to 9 percent) in the Duchenne community who imported it from overseas.”
But does he support it? I mean, after all, the “score” for Marathon is that once it’s available for sale in the U.S., it will be purchased here. At least for the time being, this PhRMA board member does support it and seems to have no concern whatsoever whether the foreign version is safe and effective, not should he, since, like other medications, it was approved for safety and efficacy elsewhere. In noting that Marathon will “pause our commercialization” of Emflaza,” maintain its Expanded Access Patient Assistance Program, Aronin also state: “Patients currently receiving deflazacort from other sources may continue to have that option.” Damn right.
Is it hypocritical of PhRMA to diss Marathon? After all, brand drug companies jacked prices 130 times the inflation rate in 2015. Forty-five million Americans didn’t fill a prescription in 2016 due to cost. PhRMA will continue its practice of legal bribery and unleash a new, shiny PR campaign about life sciences and innovation — to prevent legislative and regulatory reforms that would lower drug prices. It’s going to take an unpredictable, unexpected populist wave of American anger at drug companies to bring their house down. In the meantime, maybe the people will take a hint from one PhRMA board member and import unapproved and lower cost medications.