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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 on the public health crisis of high drug prices, or 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 that 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 stop 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 was called “Applying Lessons of “fake news” to Online Pharmacies, Drug Importation Polices.” That op-ed came on the heels of my blog post called: “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. 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. International online pharmacies that sell prescription opioids to patients in the U.S., or any controlled medication, as defined by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, are not eligible for the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.

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 because 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 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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President Trump, Use Your Executive Authority on Drug Prices

Yesterday, for a second time, President Trump said drug companies are getting away with murder. This time Trump talked about how much lower drug prices are in other countries:

“If you look at the same exact drug, by the same exact company…sold someplace else, sometimes it’s a fraction of what we pay in this country…We want to bring our prices down to what other countries are paying. I don’t mean [Americans] are paying 2% more. I mean they are paying double, triple, quadruple…”

Using executive authority under current law to expand access to lower-cost imported medications, President Trump could do something about it immediately. The guy is no stranger to executive authority! Currently, he’s using executive authority to put Obamacare out of business, measures which, in case you were wondering, I strongly oppose. Those moves will make people lose their health insurance and are opposed by over half my fellow Americans.

In contrast, if President Trump used his executive authority on drug prices, he would get an overwhelming chorus of support from the Left, Middle, Right and every which way around.

So how does this go down?

Under current law, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, an executive branch agency, can “by regulation or on a case-by-case basis…permit individuals” to import medication if “the importation is clearly for personal use…and the prescription drug or device imported does not appear to present an unreasonable risk to the individual.”

What are you waiting for, boss? See the report by Prescription Justice on using executive authority to allow safe personal drug importation from international online pharmacies.

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Get Your Medicare Part D Plans 2018!

Part D open enrollment for 2018 has begun and will continue through December 7th. During this time, if you’re a Medicare enrollee and do not have a plan, then you should pick one. If you already have a plan, you should shop around because plans change! Premiums and deductibles go up or down, drugs get dropped from formularies, new plans come into the marketplace and others exit. Our website, MedicareDrugPlans.com, has a variety of basic plan information to help you in your search, such as premiums, deductibles, coverage gaps, and whether the plan premium is waived if you have a lower income. The most useful thing about MedicareDrugPlans.com is that you can read ratings and reviews about the plans by people who actually know because they use them. That means that if you were using Part D during 2017, you have the opportunity to help others and rate your plan.

MedicareDrugPlans.com is a supplemental information site to maximize your research when choosing your plan. However, the best place to finalize and select your plan is the on the government’s website. There, you will enter in your zip code, Medicare info, names of the medications you take, and find out which plans cover those medications.

As usual, current plan ratings and reviews don’t paint a pretty picture of Medicare Part D.

PLEASE: I strongly advise, (more…)

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PharmacyChecker’s Mission in Motion: Check out our Advocacy Page!

PharmacyChecker.com is proud of the work we do to advocate for your access to affordable medication, and we welcome you, your sister, and your sister’s husband’s cousin to join us!

The greed of pharmaceutical companies has become overbearing: not only their price gouging, but rampant public relations and lobbying campaigns attempt to muzzle the majority of Americans who demand lower drug prices.

(more…)

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Rural Areas Can Benefit from International Online Pharmacies

Rural america, far from pharmacies I’m from a small town outside of Houston, Texas called Wallis. To my New Yorker friends, Wallis may appear “rural,” but, with a trip downtown clocking in at 35 minutes on sprawling Texas tollways, it’s not exactly that far from essential medication, not to mention some of the nation’s best hospitals. Despite slipping in some not-so-sneaky boasting, I’m concerned about the millions of Americans who live in rural areas who cannot access the prescription medications they need.

For years, rural residents in the U.S. have faced even greater obstacles to health care than their urban friends, and that includes problems (more…)

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Pfizer Continues to Push Viagra Without a Prescription

Pfizer wants to sell Viagra to you without you having to go to your doctor to get a prescription first. Sorry Yanks—this only applies to our friends that live in the United Kingdom, but this is absolutely of interest to us Americans because of Pfizer’s history with misleading public information campaigns surrounding sildenafil citrate (the generic name for Viagra). Those campaigns scare people from lower-cost Viagra available online.

But why? The per pill cost of Viagra today is as high as $75/100 mg pill. That’s $450 for just six pills! If you look hard, you can find it for just under $60 at your local U.S. pharmacy. In Canada, it’s as low as about $11; New Zealand about $9. Compare Viagra prices available online from pharmacies that do require your prescription.

Now that you understand Pfizer’s financial interest in trying to make sure Americans buy locally, let’s talk about prescription requirements and Viagra.

Pfizer has spent considerable sums of money fighting online sales of Viagra in the name of protecting patients from getting counterfeit drugs and has warned consumers not to buy it without a prescription. That media narrative scares men from buying lower-cost, genuine Viagra online. This includes from online pharmacies that do require a valid prescription. I’ve told this Viagra truth before.

But where does Pfizer really stand on the prescription requirement? (more…)

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