PharmacyChecker Blog

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Drug Importation Front and Center in 2019

Personal Drug Importation

In the first two weeks of January, the prospects for drug importation to help alleviate high drug prices in the U.S. are looking good. Before summarizing recent developments, I’ll just note that millions of Americans who can’t afford medicines and want to save money continue to use personal drug importation, despite the federal prohibitions. This includes physically traveling across the border to buy from Canadian or Mexican pharmacies, through international air travel, and ordering from international online pharmacies.

Last week, Lucia Mueller blogged about an important survey by the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation in which 94% of respondents affirmed that cost is the #1 reason they rely on importation through international online pharmacies.

This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Americans with Medicare falling through the cracks on drugs dropped from formularies, particularly when they are prescribed off-label, facing high costs and looking internationally for relief. As reported, savings are even greater when Americans buy generic versions overseas, of drugs that are still under patent domestically.

There’s a lot of buzz in Congress, states, and the White House on the issue of drug importation right now. Hopefully, current laws will be amended this year to make importation expressly permitted instead of merely tolerated.

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Survey Shows Cost Top Reason Americans Order Medications from Canada

It’s no secret Americans are struggling to afford their medications. A quick skim of crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe.com and Fundly.com, sets the grim scene of rising prescription drug costs in the United States. As a result, many Americans are ordering from online pharmacies located in other countries that offer the price relief folks can rarely swing here at home without the aid of insurance or strategic use of discount coupons.

A 2019 survey conducted by the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation shows that cost is the top reason more and more Americans are ordering their prescriptions from online pharmacies in Canada. 94% of Americans cite high drug prices in the U.S. as reason for ordering from abroad.

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Is Partnership for Safe Medicines funded by pharmaceutical companies to smear PharmacyChecker?

PharmacyChecker.com

Today, Tod Cooperman, MD, CEO and founder of PharmacyChecker and I sent the letter below to the Partnership for Safe Medicines (safemedicines.org) (PSM) asking them to correct information on their website that we believe is defamatory against PharmacyChecker. For years, the group was run by a vice president of Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America and continues what we believe is a smear campaign against PharmacyChecker – one funded by drug companies.

It’s not that they shouldn’t oppose drug importation as a means to lower drug prices: while I disagree with them, that’s fair game. What is not fair is publishing and making misleading, sometimes utterly false, statements that prompt people to avoid safe international online pharmacies that sell medicine they can actually afford. We’re tired of it.

Upon PSM correcting the information on their website, this blog post will be updated accordingly.

January 4, 2019

Mr. Shabbir J. Safdar
Executive Director
Partnership for Safe Medicines
315 Montgomery St, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94104

            Re:      Defamatory Misstatements about PharmacyChecker.com LLC published by

                        Partnership for Safe Medicines (SafeMedicines.org) (“PSM”)

Sent by email: shabbir@safemedicines.org

Dear Mr. Safdar:

We write to strongly urge that you correct, revise, or remove content that you recently published on your website (https://www.safemedicines.org/2018/11/drug-importation-is-a-bad-idea.html) that is rife with inaccurate, misleading, and defamatory assertions about our company, PharmacyChecker.com. This has been a modus operandi of your drug company-funded organization for many years, as exposed by independent reporting [See: https://khn.org/news/non-profit-linked-to-phrma-rolls-out-campaign-to-block-drug-imports/]. 

Attacking PharmacyChecker appears to us to be part of the Partnership for Safe Medicine’s smear campaign to frighten the U.S. public from purchasing prescription medication at lower prices from safe international online pharmacies. We understand that your campaign includes massive lobbying and public relations efforts against drug importation legislation, which, if enacted, would help lower drug prices. 

Among your offending statements are the following:

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Happy New Year and Holidays from PharmacyChecker

Happy Holidays

Each week I try and share something with our blog readers to shed further light on issues relating to online pharmacies, drug prices, drug importation and safety. Most of these efforts are dedicated toward advocating for Americans who can’t afford medications – and hammering home the truth that safe international online pharmacies are a lifeline of lower drug prices. These are policy, consumer and healthcare issues, but also political issues. I’ve come to know that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, and Democratic Socialists all agree that drug prices are out of control and the pharmaceutical industry has too much power.

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The Meaning of International Online Pharmacy Verification and Safety

pharmacy safety

International online pharmacies process orders for prescription drugs that are mailed across borders. That’s a simple definition for myriad websites, good, bad and in between, that can be found selling medicine on the Internet. Patients looking online for affordable medicine from another country want to know they will receive a lawfully-manufactured medicine that works. At PharmacyChecker, we believe we’ve developed a system of standards, rules and policies, for evaluating such websites to determine if they are safe and the businesses involved properly licensed. Those online pharmacies that are not only eligible but also willing to accept our monitoring and oversight are verified in our Verification Program. Verified means that an online pharmacy meets our online pharmacy standards of practice and agrees to our monitoring and oversight protocols. PharmacyChecker-verified online pharmacies are eligible to publish a PharmacyChecker seal on their websites and list their pharmacy information and prices on our website.

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Due Process Exercised to Obtain Personally Imported Medicine

As announced on the Prescription Justice Blog, a person recently exercised their right to defend a prescription drug import that the FDA had detained and she won the case. The drug, Arthrotec, is available for sale at U.S. pharmacies. However, according to the patient, the drug was not affordable here in the U.S. This example shows the FDA exercising its enforcement discretion to permit medicine imports where the patient cited lower costs as the reason for the importation.

If personal drug importation is illegal under most circumstances, then what is behind this“right” to argue with the FDA?

It’s pretty straightforward:

U.S. law that affects personal prescription drug importation explicitly prevents the FDA from destroying a patient’s prescription drug import without “due process” to defend that order. That comes from Section 708of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012. The purpose of that law was to make it easier, ironically, for the FDA to refuse and destroy imported medicines for personal use. That can be helpful if the drugs are counterfeit or adulterated, but harmful if they are from licensed pharmacies and the patient importing them can’t afford them here—such as the case noted here.

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