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NABP-Accredited Rochester Drug Cooperative Pleads Guilty to Illegal Opioid Drug Sales

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 other institutions.”

The nation’s largest pharmacy wholesalers, McKesson, Amerisource Bergen, and Cardinal Health – companies with many NABP-accredited facilities – have all paid fines related to civil or criminal charges of illegal opioid drug sales, including fentanyl. Along with large drug companies, like Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Insys Therapeutics, the main arteries of American’s “legitimate” drug distribution supply chain are accused of causing the opioid epidemic with 218,000 opioid-related deaths over the last 20 years.

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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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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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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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ASOP Symposium on Illegal Online Sales of Medicine – Listening to the FDA Closely

Listening to the FDAThis week, I attended ASOP Foundation’s symposium titled: “Spotlight on Illegal Online Sales of Medicine.” ASOP is short for the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies. That organization, which started with funding from Eli Lilly and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, has often received criticism on these blog pages. Like other Pharma-funded initiatives, its goals are aligned with the pharmaceutical industry and one of its main objectives is lobbying against personal drug importation. It often conflates, through its public education programs, safe international online pharmacies with dangerous rogue websites. However, a good part of its work is helping raise awareness and policy development to stop rogue sellers of counterfeit and substandard medicines from harming patients, and that’s something PharmacyChecker is 100% behind.

Much of ASOP’s work was the brainchild of LegitScript, a founder of ASOP. Truth be told, PharmacyChecker is the expert in safe international online pharmacies and providing consumers with useful guidance about them, but LegitScript/ASOP are the experts in rogue online pharmacies and pushing policies to shut them down. It’s disheartening that they seemingly refuse to separate safe importation from rogue online drug sellers. But I’ll put that aside for now.

I’m going to focus today’s post mostly on presentations by two high-ranking FDA officials. The first was the morning’s keynote speaker, Donald Ashley, JD, FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Director of Compliance. His focus was the FDA’s efforts to combat illegal opioid sales online and those being imported through international mail facilities. I’ve written about how such actions can be used against safe personal drug imports. While that would be unfortunate, Mr. Ashley was meticulous in communicating that his efforts are strictly focused on opioids: shutting down fentanyl and other opioid-selling sites; detecting and stopping illegal opioid imports; and, through the Office of Criminal Investigations, charging and prosecuting these online opioid drug dealers.

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Big Pharma Playbook on Internet Pharmacies Exposed

Big Pharma Blocks Online AccessCentral to Big Pharma’s lobbying efforts is relying on drug company-funded “nonprofit” groups to sanitize their goals under the veneer of charity. Investigative reporting in Tarbell, a media organization founded by healthcare activist Wendell Potter, shows that drug companies, namely Eli Lilly, successfully lobbied the Obama administration to make Internet companies embrace policies that curtail online access to affordable medication.

These pharma-funded nonprofits engage fellow industry-tied patient groups, the media and people, promoting the idea that rogue online pharmacies and safe international online pharmacies are the same thing. Their message: don’t buy lower-cost medications online from other countries because it’s too dangerous.

That message is an outright lie.

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