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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Online Pharmacies Did Not Fuel the Opioid Crisis

Fuel Opioid CrisisThe role of the Internet as a channel to obtain and misuse prescription narcotics is tiny.

A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blamed the Internet for 0.1% (one tenth of 1%) of all narcotic abuse. That data was from 2015. The latest such report, which is called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has new data from 2017 that doesn’t even have a category for the Internet.

It’s hard to tell if the new number is lower or higher than 0.1%. While 0.1% appears to be statistically insignificant, people have died buying narcotic prescription drugs online and all channels of abuse need to be addressed.

Drug Companies Want to Hide Lower Drug Prices from Americans

On the other hand, drug companies are lobbying Congress to crackdown on Internet companies about opioids, but what they really want is for Americans to stop using the Internet to access lower prescription drug prices from Canada and other countries. In fact, drug giant Eli Lilly wants to censor the Internet by removing Canadian online pharmacies from Google search results in the U.S. Let’s address opioid sales online with a scalpel, not a sledge hammer. More importantly, let’s put resources into treatment and use law enforcement where it’s most needed.

According to the government’s survey, of the 11.1 million people who misused prescription opioids, here’s how they obtained them: 53.1% from a friend or relative; 36.6% from a doctor’s prescription; 5.7% from a drug dealer; and 4.6% some other way.

Channels of Obtaining Prescription Opioids for Misuse

I don’t know why SAMHSA removed the Internet as a category but believe there are two possible answers:

One, the internet channel was statistically insignificant.

Two, the incredibly small percentage, 0.1%, did not fit the agenda of the pharmaceutical industry to blame the Internet for illegally obtained prescription narcotics.

The data showing that only 0.1% of Americans who abuse opioids get them online doesn’t justify the major crackdown on the Internet desired by the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes, drug companies can lobby Congress and federal agencies to have questions removed and added to research on matters that affect them. The FDA has never reported a person seriously sickened or killed by buying medicine internationally from an online pharmacy that requires a prescription. The safest international online pharmacies don’t sell opioid medicine or any controlled drugs.

What does the category “some other way” account for according to SAMHSA?

Some other way includes write-in responses not already listed in this table or responses with insufficient information that could allow them to be placed in another category.”

That means they didn’t ask about the Internet, but people may have written it in. I’ll update this post when I find out more about it.

Consumer Advocacy

As drug companies continue to pressure Congress about stopping personal drug importation by censoring the Internet, it’s important for consumer advocates to stay on top of this data. As I wrote last week, if you look closely, the law, ironically, defends personal drug importation – even if it’s technically illegal.

Let’s beat the opioid crisis without stopping people from safe personal drug importation of non-opioid, non-controlled products.

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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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