Over 700,000 people died in the U.S. from a drug overdose between 1999 to 2017. That’s about 130 American deaths daily. At PharmacyChecker, we are dedicated to helping fight this epidemic by learning more about the crisis and spreading awareness. I recently obtained certification for The Opioid Crisis in America course offered by Harvard University.
According to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the main channels that people obtain opioid drugs illegally are from a friend or relative for free; buying from a friend or relative; or buying from a drug dealer or stranger.
As our main focus is often online pharmacy and importation, it’s notable that Harvard did not identify online pharmacy or importation as contributors to the opioid epidemic.
Rochester Drug Cooperative, a large pharmacy wholesaler
accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), pleaded
guilty last week to illegal sales of opioid drugs, including oxycodone and
fentanyl. The NABP operates a program called Verified Authorized Wholesale
Distribution (VAWD). According to its website, NABP VAWD accreditation helps
“ensure that the wholesale distribution facility operates legitimately, is
licensed in good standing, and is employing security and best practices for
safely distributing prescription drugs from manufacturers to pharmacies and
In their opposition to drug importation legislation, the myriad “non-profit” groups funded by drug companies often cynically invoke the evils of counterfeit drugs. We’ve seen this as recently as this week, when an importation bill triumphantly passed in Florida (Prescription Drug Importation Programs HB19). One such group, the Partnership for Safe Medicines, was called out by PolitiFact for essentially lying that the new state law would “allow” imports from China “without FDA inspection,” tacking on that “too many have already died from counterfeit drugs.”
The Florida drug importation bill builds in so many
regulatory checks that it may in fact make importation from Canada into Florida
safer than our “regular” drug supply chain, but that’s for another post. As it
happens, no one has ever been reported killed by a non-controlled prescription
drug imported from a pharmacy that required a valid prescription.
PolitiFact is right to call out PSM, but I’m sad to report
that, yes, there is a very real counterfeit drug problem in the United States.
But, unlike the fake counterfeit drug facts propagated by groups like PSM to
scare people away from buying lower-cost medicines online, it comes in the form
of illegal fentanyl ingredients used
to make counterfeit prescription narcotics.
Until we lower drug prices here at home in America, online access
to affordable medication internationally is clearly essential. But what if we
lived in a country where people were no longer able to find safe international
In an ideal world, search algorithms empower consumers to
find the exact information they are looking for on these search engines. In a
recent Google algorithm update (March 2019), which affected the “natural” or
“organic,” non-paid search results, we wonder if there was foul play involved
in which Google was caving in
to Big Pharma. The Electronic Frontier Foundation identified this problem
in 2016, in “How
Big Pharma’s Shadow Regulation Censors the Internet.”
The results at the very top of your Google search are often ads, which are of course paid placement: a different problem.
Those patients searching on Google for information about affording medicine through online pharmacies were significantly disadvantaged by the Google March 2019 Core Update. The reason is that results for PharmacyChecker ‘s verification and pricing information are now much harder to find than they were on March 11th, 2019— a day before the update.
According to the FDA, in 2017, 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make our medicines are imported. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read (and written) that over the past decade or so. Almost every time I read that particular statistic in the news, it’s often a story about drug quality problems, in which foreign APIs are reported as a growing problem. Flashback to the FDA in 1998: as reported by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make medicines for sale in the U.S. is about 80%.
Yesterday, the Florida House Legislature voted
93-22 passing HB 19. The bill creates programs and processes for importing
prescription drugs from Canada, as well as from other countries. HB 19 actually
calls for the creation of two programs, which I have summarized below. For a
deep dive, you should read the Staff
Analysis from the Florida House of Representatives.
Prescription Drug Importation Program (CPDIP)
If HB 19 becomes law, the Florida Agency for Health Care
Administration (AHCA) will create processes that meet the safety protocols
called for in the bill, which include inspections and testing of drugs, to
allow registered wholesale pharmacies to import from Florida-registered
Canadian wholesalers. In this program, lower drug prices will save taxpayers
money for government funded-entities, such as county health departments, free
clinics, and the Department of Corrections.