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?
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
for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) for peddling false information about
World Health Organization studies and counterfeit drugs.
for Safe Medicines (PSM) for using the opioid crisis as a tool to oppose
importation of regular, less expensive prescription medicine.
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
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”)
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/].
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:
This 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.
Central 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.
Shocking. Contrary to the outcry against high drug prices in the United States and the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a recent survey conducted by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP or “Buy Safe Rx”), the Pharma-funded nonprofit, found that a majority of consumers (59%) oppose legalizing drug importation “after being provided with information specifically pertaining to Canadian online pharmacies.” Information, huh? First, let’s talk about an objective survey on the issue.
Also, despite the federal prohibitions, nineteen million Americans say they have imported lower cost medication from other countries.
The ASOP “survey” respondents were provided fear-inducing “statistics” surrounding Canadian online pharmacies before asking the survey questions. One such “factoid” gives you a window into the scheming nature of the whole project: (more…)
Continuing our quest to get the truth out and for our elected leaders in Congress to take bold action to protect online access to safe and affordable medication, we’re publishing a section a week of our report called Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation, and Public Health. The Government Accountability Office Report on Internet pharmacies, which we’ve attested contains inaccuracies and is misleading about buying medication online, clearly relied heavily on pharmaceutical industry sources. Here’s how:
Some pharmaceutical companies, including many members of the PhRMA, view foreign online pharmacies as a commercial threat because Americans are able to obtain medications at lower prices leading to lower profits. The U.S. pharmacy industry views non-U.S. online pharmacies as unfair competition because the latter can charge lower prices. Many of the groups identified by GAO as stakeholders are drug companies and U.S. pharmacies or groups that they fund, including the following groups:
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies
International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Pharmacies
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Community Pharmacists Association
Partnership for Safe Medicines
Pharmaceutical Security Institute
Of the 35 stakeholder groups identified by GAO, at least 33% (13) are pharmaceutical companies or groups that receive funding by pharmaceutical companies or U.S. pharmacies. Another stakeholder is the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), as are eight of its member companies. CSIP is a private consortium of businesses formed in response to pressure by the White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, which mostly operates as another voice and information clearinghouse for the other stakeholders listed. Three associations representing U.S. pharmacy boards and pharmacies are listed above.