A few months back, I wrote about a panel that I put together as part of my work with PharmacyChecker.com and Prescription Justice, a non-profit group dedicated to ending the crisis of high drug prices in America. The panel was one of hundreds of sessions at the RightsCon Conference in Brussels, an event that brings together Internet freedom, human rights and social justice activists. The panel discussed issues related to buying medication online, Internet freedom, importation and drug affordability – and the negative impact of the pharmaceutical industry on all of the above.
Essentially, drug companies have spent millions of dollars on funding “non-profit” groups, public relations efforts, lobbying Congress and international organizations, Interpol (I kid you not), etc., with the goal of making it hard, if not impossible, for people to buy safe and lower cost medication online from other countries, which include people in America, that can’t afford it locally. Their activities intentionally conflate the intentional sale of counterfeit and substandard drugs with safe international online pharmacies.
The panel was a great step forward in giving the consumer side of this issue a larger voice. The panelists discussed and edited a draft set of principles on medication sales and the Internet. It took a while, but, on June 15, 2017, Knowledge Ecology International and Prescription Justice finalized and endorsed what we’re calling the Brussels Principles, which are published below.
The organizers of RightsCon just came out with what they call an Outcomes Report to showcase tangible results from the 250 meetings, discussions and panels that were held. Included in this report was something I wrote to them, thanking RightsCon for the opportunity to participate:
“This issue of people buying medications online because it’s too expensive locally is not well understood in the internet community of activists. The drug companies are fully engaged to extend their regulatory capture to the Internet. I wrote an article about this to explain what’s happening and issued a call to action for the internet and medicines access rights communities to get together to talk about this. That call to action began at RightsCon.”
And that action produced the Brussels Principles. I’m super proud of this. Please read below.
Brussels Principles on Medication Sales over the Internet
that the cost and local availability of medication is a global barrier to essential medical treatments for hundreds of millions of people;
that the Internet has served as a disruptive force to traditional industry in the practice of pharmacy and trade in pharmaceuticals, allowing for the ethical international sale of medications to patients;
that countries are neglecting their human rights obligations when their citizens do not have adequate access to affordable healthcare, including medication;
We affirm the following principles relating to the sale of medicine ordered for personal use on the Internet:
- Access to affordable medications is an essential component to the fundamental human right to health.
- Laws, regulations, and enforcement actions that impede online access to lower-priced, lawfully manufactured medication can be inimical to public health.
- Consumers should be able to use the Internet to order and have delivered through the mail safe and affordable medications.
- National laws can violate fundamental human rights when their effect prevents and, or, deters, citizens from importing medications for personal use who, because of cost or other access reasons, when patients have no other realistic options.
- Countries, and international organizations to which they belong, should promote a competitive online marketplace for safe pharmaceuticals, one that respects and empowers consumers, recognizing the need for policies that protect and facilitate affordability of drugs in countries with different incomes.
- Policies that affect online access to medication should be consumer-focused, patient-centered, evidence-based, and created with the understanding that prices often prohibit access.
- Recognizing the public health benefit in enabling consumers to find international online pharmacies that are safe and reliable, international and national enforcement efforts should focus on identifying and sanctioning online pharmacies that engage in the intentional sale of counterfeit and falsified medication, as defined by the World Health Organization, and otherwise ensuring that online pharmacies are a reliable and safe source of medications.
- Internet intermediaries, such as domain name registries, advertising networks, payment processors, financial institutions and mail and delivery services should not misuse their commercial power to disrupt online access to lawful, safe and affordable medication.
The Brussels Principles were first published on the blog of Prescription Justice.
Tagged with: accessnow, brussels principles, KEI, Rightscon