As I wrote
a few weeks back, PharmacyChecker
filed an antitrust lawsuit against five organizations that we believe are largely
funded or backed by pharmaceutical companies. We allege that these
organizations have conspired to illegally suppress competition in the areas of online
pharmacy verification services and drug price comparisons on the Internet. The
organizations are the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP),
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), Partnership for Safe Medicines
(PSM), LegitScript, and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP).
As part of that suit, we filed a motion for preliminary
injunction to immediately stop the NABP from including PharmacyChecker.com and
this blogsite on its “Not Recommended Sites” list. That list was created to
ostensibly identify rogue online pharmacies but has included safe international
online pharmacies from its very inception. More recently NABP’s oversight has
been expanded, apparently, to also include sites—such as this blog—that help
consumers avoid rogue online pharmacies and find affordable drug prices!
Stephen Salant, PhD, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Michigan and research professor at the University of Maryland has written a paper that I believe gives voice and pays respect to the millions of Americans who import or are on the verge of importing lower-cost medication using online pharmacies. Let me be clear: this guy is a world-renowned economist. An expert in applied microeconomics, Professor Salant is most famous for his work in the economics of natural resources and industrial organization. Over the past few years, he has turned his attention to the problem of high drug prices in America and how to solve it without decreasing investment in research and development to create new life-saving drugs.
I’ll articulate the basic points of Salant’s paper, as I
understand them, and then give some commentary.
This week was a breakthrough for holding accountable the
pharmaceutical industry for fueling
the opioid crisis, which is responsible for approximately 400,000 deaths
in the U.S. alone. In a landmark ruling, a judge in Oklahoma fined Johnson
& Johnson $572 million for deceptive and aggressive marketing practices of
opioid drugs that contributed to 6,000 deaths in that state. State prosecutors
were successful by charging the drug company under laws relating to “public
nuisances.” To remedy and remove the nuisance, the fine will go toward treatment,
education and prevention programs related to opioid drugs. This resonates
powerfully with me because, for years, I’ve observed how the drug industry abused
the opioid crisis as a lobbying and public relations tool against prescription
drug importation and to crack down against safe international online pharmacies,
and even against
PharmacyChecker. It has done so through its own trade associations and
companies and by funding organizations to do their bidding.
Increasingly frustrated with the state of drug costs in the U.S., millions
of Americans have found refuge in ordering necessary prescription medications
online from Canadian or other international pharmacies for roughly a tenth the cost
of those at their local Walgreens, CVS, or other pharmacy.
Americans overwhelmingly believe that drug prices are unreasonably high in our country. Millions have looked to the Internet to find lower drug prices at pharmacies in other countries, many because they have no other choice. For over 16 years, PharmacyChecker has provided online pharmacy verification and drug price comparison information to help these people. As I’ve written about for years, the drug companies and U.S. pharmacy corporations don’t like this and take actions to make it stop.
PharmacyChecker has filed a lawsuit against organizations and companies that we allege are illegally conspiring to “to choke off information about personal importation of affordable prescription medications from regulated, reputable pharmacies in Canada and elsewhere overseas.”
This week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and FDA Commissioner declaring support for the Trump administration’s drug importation plan but warning about the need to up our game inspecting foreign drug manufacturing establishments. Grassley cautioned that the U.S. must ensure new imports are properly tracked and traced within the supply chain. While there are some details in Grassley’s recently stated position that are a bit blurry, the essence of what the senator is saying is very good. We can use global trade to force down prices on prescription drugs in the U.S. while continuing to work on and improve the safety of our already-existing global pharmaceutical supply.
Senator Grassley has vociferously supported drug importation
for a long time. As reported
in The Hill in 2012, he was intensely critical of President Obama for going
back on his 2008 campaign promise to support dug importation: