PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Did Instagram Shut Down our Account as Part of its Crackdown on Opioid Drugs: Protecting Patients or Big Pharma Censorship of Lower Drug Prices?

Instagram shut down our account

The pharmaceutical industry, generally, does not like our company. As an extension of that feeling, the FDA doesn’t love us either. Basically, we are in Big Pharma’s crosshairs because the information we provide helps people find more affordable medicines from other countries and import it for personal use.

But is that a reason for Instagram to shutdown our account!? That action is nothing less than corporate-inspired, government-encouraged censorship. Mike Masnick of TechDirt refers to this as the soft underbelly of Internet censorship. Also, please read this background from the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling out Big Pharma on this issue.

Congress and the FDA are banging on the door of Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. about stopping people from selling opioids on their platforms. We can debate until the cows come home about what content should be self-censored — meaning removed without a court order — but please hear me out on why Instagram’s dissing PharmacyChecker doesn’t even come close to acceptable and let us know if you agree or disagree.

First of all, PharmacyChecker.com does not sell or facilitate the sale of medication. Medications are not purchased on our site and we have no role in the processing of prescription orders. We verify credentials and publish information about online pharmacies and drug prices. That information is globally accessible on the Internet.

By the way, our Verification Program bans online pharmacies that ship controlled drugs of any kind into the U.S. This includes not only prescription opioids, but also Valium, Xanax, and Adderall. We’re with the DEA on strict controls and highly attuned to and concerned about the opioid crisis. I have friends who view our policy as too conservative. You get the picture.

We agree with cracking down against dealers of opioids, with Fentanyl being the greatest concern. On the other hand, we have seen Pharma and the government use a crackdown against addictive prescription drug sales online to veer into a crackdown against imports from Canada of decidedly regular meds that treat asthma, diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, etc.

We launched PharmacyChecker in 2003 to help people searching the Internet for lower medicine prices from real pharmacies, domestic and international. Our verification program is run by a licensed PharmD from Massachusetts, Dr. Shivam Patel. Pharmacies listed in our program must require valid prescriptions, sell only personal-use quantities, have a pharmacy license, and cannot sell controlled drugs of any kind internationally, into the U.S.

Feel free to read about our extensive protocols for verifying international online pharmacies.

In 2012, I was asked to write a chapter in a book called Hacking Politics, which is now published as an anthology about the battle to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act. My chapter was called the “Online Pharmacy Story.” In short, due to lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry, SOPA contained language that would have potentially made PharmacyChecker.com illegal at a maximum; at minimum, it would have increased our intermediary liability exposure. I strongly opposed it. And yet we see big industries moving SOPA by a thousand cuts.

I believe there’s some chance that Instagram dissed our account accidentally, based on a sweep of sites having to do with drugs, medicines, pharmacies, etc. But there’s also a small chance that Pharma’s influence led to the direct shutdown of our account as a slap in the face to PharmacyChecker advocacy efforts. I’m constantly criticizing Pharma’s propaganda about importation and online pharmacies our blog, in the New York Times, RightsCon, and directly to members of Congress in my testimony.

In fact, last year I caught PhRMA, meaning the big pharma trade association, placing Google ads using our name to dissuade people against importation of lower-cost medicines. As I wrote in our blog, that was a badge of honor but kind of disconcerting as well.

Late last month, the FDA called Instagram, Google, Reddit, and many others, to what was called the FDA Opioid Online Summit. I blogged about it beforehand mostly to note that groups funded by Pharma were well represented, ones that focus on opposing importation of lower-cost medicines and use the opioid crisis for that goal. Initially, the summit was billed as a public event, but it turns out that journalists were locked out and those that covered the public part did conclude that opioids were not the sole target, but cheaper meds were open season, too.

We want our Instagram account reinstated on principle, yet no one has responded to our multiple attempts at contacting Instagram’s customer support.

Anyone willing to weigh in on this?

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International Drug Price Comparisons for Medicare Part D Medications

Drug Price Inflation

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) requested an investigation into drug price increases among the Medicare Part D program’s 20 most widely-prescribed medications over a five-year period. The investigation, conducted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, found that average annual drug price increases were 12%, about 10 times higher than the rate of inflation. One drug, Nitrostat, increased by 477% during the five-year period. PharmacyChecker decided to find out what the savings would be from international online pharmacies for cash payers on these medications. The average potential prescription savings is 80%, further evidence that seniors can benefit from lower drug prices outside the U.S. when their pharmacy benefits are inadequate.

Adding a little spice to this research, we found that 70% of these 20 medications, the ones sold in U.S. pharmacies, are foreign-made, imported drugs. This shows that importation is legal for drug companies that make medications overseas. The countries where they are made get the manufacturing jobs; we get the higher prices!

And what about those drugs made in the U.S., often in Puerto Rico? You can buy those drugs cheaper in Canada. Synthroid is a perfect example. Synthroid, sold in Canada, is made in Puerto Rico and can be purchased for 15 cents a pill, compared to $1.68 a pill in the U.S.: a 93% savings for the same drug.

Here’s a crazy one: The medication Premarin is made in Canada. It’s $6.93 a pill at a U.S. pharmacy, but can be bought online and filled from a U.K. pharmacy for 17 cents: a 98% savings. In this case, the drug made in Canada is cheaper in the U.K. than in Canada.

And what about Nitrostat, the drug that increased by 477% over the past five years? It’s 80 cents a pill in the U.S. and only 28 cents in Canada. The drug is made in Puerto Rico.

Here’s the news release with all the data: https://www.pharmacychecker.com/news/american-seniors-save-80-percent-medication.asp.

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Compare Drug Prices: Walgreens Prices 1000% More Expensive

When it comes to getting your prescription medication for an affordable price, nothing compares to comparing prices. We talk about online, international options for prescription drug savings a lot. Americans use our site, PharmacyChecker.com, to find much lower prices available abroad for their prescribed medications. They also use us to find discount coupons for their local pharmacy.

After a disappointing visit to Walgreens, Garrick Feldman, editor in chief of the Arkansas Leader, did it the old-fashioned way by calling around his town. In doing so, he discovered how people are price-gouged by not only Big Pharma—but by their local pharmacies. His story is awesome. (more…)

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Trump’s State of the Union: Drug Prices ‘Will Come Down’

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States.There are not many issues you can hear both Republicans and Democrats clapping about in unison, but high drug prices is definitely one of them. Echoing his 2016 campaign, President Trump again proclaimed during his State of the Union address Tuesday night that his administration is determined “to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities.”

Speeding up the approval of lower-cost generics was noted by Trump as “exciting progress,” but nothing substantial has been done by the Trump administration on drug prices. The appointment of Alex Azar to head the Department of Health and Human Services department was a major disappointment. As president of Eli Lilly USA, Azar oversaw major price hikes on lifeline medications, such as insulin.

Appealing to both his base and popular opinion, President Trump could use his executive authority immediately to more expressly permit Americans to buy medication from international pharmacies.

(more…)

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AARP Report: Older Americans Looking for Drug Price Relief

Older Americans Online PharmaciesAARP just released its Rx Price Watch Report and the data doesn’t do your wallet any favors. Thankfully, verified international online pharmacies offer the price relief consumers need but can’t find locally. AARP has recommended that consumers consult PharmacyChecker.com to avoid rogue online pharmacy scams.

The AARP report painted quite a grim picture concerning the lack of drug price relief in the U.S.:

(more…)

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Big Pharma Manufactured the Opioid Crisis and High Drug Prices; Safe Drug Importation Not to Blame

Yesterday, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which hopefully will jumpstart the nation’s response to get more treatment to addicts, including medications that can save them from overdose, and empower law enforcement to more successfully pursue and stop illegal (and even legal) distribution of opioids that have killed hundreds of thousands. This is NOT the time to ease up on the administration or Congress regarding the public health crisis of high drug prices or to let Big Pharma use it as a pretext to curtail access to more affordable, imported (non-opioid) medication. Just last week we wrote about Trump saying for a second time that drug companies were getting away with murder because of drug prices. He should have added for drug dealing as well.

As I wrote in The Hill back in June, Big Pharma is not only responsible for high drug prices but also for causing opioid abuse and death in America. They want to use a crackdown on illegal opioid imports to stop safe drug importation, which is a lifeline for millions of Americans who cannot afford the outrageous prices the drug industry controls here at home.

The drug companies’ front groups are supporting legislation called the Synthetics Trafficking Opioid Prevent Act (STOP). STOP’s goal is to cease illegal imports of fentanyl, a drug sold lawfully in the U.S., which is often used as an ingredient to make opioid-based street drugs and even counterfeit versions of prescription narcotics. Well, I support that idea, too! Who wouldn’t? Here’s the problem with the bill: That same legislation could also impede Americans who import real, non-opioid, non-controlled medication for their own use because they can’t afford it here!

Pharma’s death machine has no boundaries. Op-eds continue to infest the Internet and daily newspapers warning that legalizing imports of lower-cost medication from Canada will worsen the opioid crisis. Most that I’ve read are written by paid lobbyists, consultants, or employees of drug companies.

One example is an op-ed written by Mary Bono, former Congresswoman from California and currently a lobbyist with Faegre Baker Daniels, who is also an advisor to the pharma-funded Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP). Her piece is called “Applying Lessons of “fake news” to Online Pharmacies, Drug Importation Polices.” That op-ed came on the heels of my blog post: “Would Big Pharma Create Fake News to Scare Americans Away from Online Pharmacies Abroad?”

This would all be funny if it wasn’t so horribly sad.

Is Mary Bono a lobbyist for Pharma? According to Open Secrets, ASOP has spent $420,000 this year lobbying on importation and online pharmacies alone. I believe that Ms. Bono genuinely wants to stop dangerous illegal sales of prescription narcotics and even regular drugs – but to mix it all in with a narrative that perpetuates that ALL international online pharmacies are dangerous is wrong. You’ll notice on the Open Secrets page that the executive director of ASOP, Libby Baney, is a principal at Faegre Baker Daniels and a lobbyist.

Safe international online pharmacies help Americans afford medication to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, depression, heart disease and many other conditions. They require valid prescriptions, meet high standards of pharmacy practice, and have nothing to do with the opioid crisis. PharmacyChecker explicitly bans any website from our Verification Program that sells prescription opioids to patients in the U.S., or any controlled medication, as defined by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The tragedy of hundreds of thousands of deaths by opioid abuse and overdose in America is nothing short of disgraceful. It’s well-known that the pharmaceutical industry’s commercial greed bears much responsibility. One example is that the pharmaceutical industry pushed for looser prescribing rules to expand opioid sales to people who don’t really need them. More recently, investigative reporting showed that Pharma lobbied for the successful passage of legislation to prevent the DEA from going after companies violating opioid drug distribution laws. This has led to unnecessary deaths, and yet we continue to let Big Pharma sweep the truth under the rug.

The FDA has never reported a death due to ordering medication from an international online pharmacy that required valid prescription. Never. Juxtapose that with the 200,000 who have died from opioids. Also, the FDA notes that 125,000 Americans have died because they have not taken prescribed medication. Why haven’t they? Often because they can’t afford it. Based on Commonwealth Fund surveys, we’ve estimated about 45 million didn’t fill a prescription because of cost in 2016.

I’ve been saying for years now that the pharmaceutical industry is misleading the public and Congress on prescription drug importation in a major way. So, I’ll say it again: the opioid crisis should not be a pretext to make it harder for Americans to afford non-opioid drugs internationally.

Enough.

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