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Freeh Group International Addendum on Drug Import Proposals

Earlier this week, a report (the “FGI Report”) opposing prescription drug importation proposals was released by the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan LLP and the Freeh Group International. Both organizations are headed by former FBI Director, Louis Freeh. I’m hesitant to criticize reports authored by dedicated Americans who spent years in public service protecting the safety of the American people in federal law enforcement. On the other hand, the intent of tacking the name of a venerated American patriot on a report that mirrors the lobbying agenda of the pharmaceutical industry is clearly being used to deter voices opposed to that agenda.

Summing it all up: this report was commissioned, I believe, by the drug company-funded group Partnership for Safe Medicines or a similar organization. As noted in the report’s title, it’s an addendum to an earlier report published in late 2017, one that was promoted at a Partnership for Safe Medicines media event at the National Press Club.

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Consumer Reports’ Deafening Silence about Safe Foreign Online Pharmacies

Consumer Reports' silence

Back in 2008, Consumer Reports recommended PharmacyChecker to Americans looking to save money on prescription drugs at foreign pharmacies. An article in the Los Angeles Times stated: “Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs advises checking online prices, for U.S. and foreign pharmacies, at pharmacychecker.com.”

That was then. This is now.

When Consumer Reports’ Lisa Gill testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on drug prices last week, she was silent in her prepared remarks about what she knows well: millions of Americans, readers of Consumer Reports, buy medicine online internationally. Her silence did not surprise me because Consumer Reports does not currently recommend buying medicine online from Canada or other countries, although many of its readers believe it should.

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FDA’s Misplaced Advice to Patients in CanaRx Import Warning

Last week, in a warning letter and press release, the FDA went to great lengths to demonize what appears to be an exceedingly safe personal prescription drug importation program offered by a Canadian company called CanaRx Services, Inc. I believe the agency crossed the line with bad advice to patients. In a nutshell, about 500 U.S. cities, companies, and other organizations use CanaRx to offer their employees and retirees a lower-cost international pharmacy option. The prescription medicines are mailed from licensed pharmacies in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to U.S. consumers. CanaRx’s programs have been in effect for almost 20 years and helped taxpayers and patients save $250 million, according to the company.

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NY State Authorizes Paper Prescriptions to Fill in Foreign Pharmacies

Good news for New Yorkers who want freedom of choice to fill their prescriptions at pharmacies located where they are more affordable: in other countries. There is now an explicit exception to the electronic prescription (e-prescribing) law in New York that permits paper prescriptions to be filled in other countries. I’m sorry we didn’t catch this earlier, but here it is now. As of January 2017, according to the NY State Department of Health, one exception to e-prescribing, which allows a provider to write a paper prescription, is when the medicine is: 

“…dispensed by a pharmacy located outside the state, outside the country, or on federal property, including and not limited to the following examples; Veterans Administration, West Point, Fort Drum, and Indian Reservations;”

When e-prescribing became mandatory in NY, people had a hard time obtaining paper prescriptions. This was not just an inconvenience. It was a threat to their access to affordable medicine. In our country, it’s sometimes imperative to shop around and find the pharmacy that charges the lowest price in our neighborhood – or in another country. This development should be very helpful to people looking to shop around.

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Drug Prices are High because Big Pharma Dresses Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

This week, Wendell Potter, healthcare advocate and publisher of non-profit media outlet Tarbell, called out a slew of drug industry experts for undermining efforts to lower drug prices. This includes the likes of Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, and the Partnership for Safe Medicines. All use the specter of counterfeit drugs and the opioid crisis to scare the American public away from safe personal importation via online pharmacies.

Recipients of Drug Company Donations

Who is called out?

  1. Sally Pipes, from the Pacific Research Institute, because in an op-ed opposing drug importation, Ms. Pipes obtusely connects Americans ordering drugs from Canada with the many tragic deaths in low-income countries from counterfeit drugs.
  2. The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) for peddling false information about World Health Organization studies and counterfeit drugs.
  3. The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) for using the opioid crisis as a tool to oppose importation of regular, less expensive prescription medicine.
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The Mike Enzi Foundation for Lower-Cost Imported Insulin Should Exist

Senator Mike Enzi

In my blog post about the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, I noted my surprise at Senator Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) comment that he knew about a foundation that helps people import lower-cost insulin from Canada. Sen. Enzi stated that a person referred to as his diabetes advisor had “found a way to work through a foundation to import insulin for a number of people at lower-cost. And I think he worked for a foundation so that it would be legal.” I had endeavored to look into it, but fortunately Jay Hancock from Kaiser Health News beat me to it and found, sadly, no such insulin import program exists. I think we can all agree that it should!

In researching the story, Jay asked me if I knew of such a program.

Nope.

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