I’m writing to you from Berlin, Germany on Thanksgiving and I’m missing my family. But it was important to be here. I came to attend and participate at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF). At the IGF, people from all over the world delve into an assortment of internet issues that impact the lives of people everywhere. Very broadly, the topics covered related to free speech, privacy, competition, security, child safety, nationalism, protecting democratic elections, and the reason I was here: discussing and promoting access to safe and affordable medicine on the Internet. Attendees and participants are affiliated with international governmental organizations, national governments, non-profit organizations, activists, businesses, journalists, and a wide array of policy professionals focused on internet governance.
What is internet governance? I like this definition from Georgia Tech School of Public Policy:
“Internet governance refers to the rules, policies, standards and practices that coordinate and shape global cyberspace.”
From left to right: Aria Iliad Ahmad, me, Dr. Jillian Clare Kohler, Tim Smith, Ron Andruff, Dr. Shivam Patel, Tracy Cooley, and Robert Guerra.
Last year I organized a panel at a conference called RightsCon to bring together Internet freedom and medicines rights activists to talk about buying medication online. And last week, I participated on a panel at RightsCon in Toronto that continued and strengthened those initial efforts. It was an honor to be on that panel, especially to hold discussions with academic experts in pharmaceutical safety and access with important roles working with the World Health Organization (WHO).
For those of you who are new to this blog, the work at RightsCon is directly relevant to PharmacyChecker’s mission to inform patients about safe and lower-cost medication options available on the Internet. Essentially, large pharmaceutical companies are lobbying governments and Internet companies to take actions that will prevent you from getting less expensive medications. This is also an issue about free speech and Internet freedom that should increasingly attract even more digital rights activists. Big Pharma is pressuring governments to pressure Internet gatekeepers to take down content. This is the Stop Online Piracy Act by a thousand cuts. We are trying to push back against that.
En medio de un débil intento de Washington para “resolver” el problema de la seguridad social, los americanos seguimos encontrando obstáculos al tratar de dar prioridad a la salud de nuestras familias. Mientras tanto, los costos de los medicamentos siguen aumentando. Esto, en particular, pone en riesgo a las comunidades minoritarias.
La crisis que representa el aumento en el precio de los medicamentos va más allá de los grupos minoritarios, pero hay estudios que muestran que, comparados con el resto de la población, los hispanos son más propensos a no seguir sus recetas médicas debido al costo. Lo que es peor, ahora que los inmigrantes tienen miedo de salir de casa, es incluso menos probable que los indocumentados consigan los medicamentos que necesitan. Sin importar tu posición en cuanto al tema de inmigración, esta tendencia es inaceptable y debe combatirse educando a la gente sobre la existencia de precios más bajos fuera de los Estados Unidos; y sin embargo hay quienes siguen sin entenderlo…
Principles to guide the Internet community on ethical medication sales
A few months back, I wrote about a panel that I put together as part of my work with PharmacyChecker.com and Prescription Justice, a non-profit group dedicated to ending the crisis of high drug prices in America. The panel was one of hundreds of sessions at the RightsCon Conference in Brussels, an event that brings together Internet freedom, human rights and social justice activists. The panel discussed issues related to buying medication online, Internet freedom, importation and drug affordability – and the negative impact of the pharmaceutical industry on all of the above.
Essentially, drug companies have spent millions of dollars on funding “non-profit” groups, public relations efforts, lobbying Congress and international organizations, Interpol (I kid you not), etc., with the goal of making it hard, if not impossible, for people to buy safe and lower cost medication online from other countries, which include people in America, that can’t afford it locally. Their activities intentionally conflate the intentional sale of counterfeit and substandard drugs with safe international online pharmacies.
The panel was a great step forward in giving the consumer side of this issue a larger voice. The panelists discussed and edited a draft set of principles on medication sales and the Internet. It took a while, but, on June 15, 2017, Knowledge Ecology International and Prescription Justice finalized and endorsed what we’re calling the Brussels Principles, which are published below. (more…)
Defending consumer rights to affordable medication on the Internet (left to right: Gabriel Levitt, Jeremy Malcom, Andrew Goldman, Burcu Kilic, Paul Zickler)
Access to medicines and Internet rights advocates came together yesterday for a panel at the RightsCon conference in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the importance of, and threats to, online access to safe and affordable medication. In my capacities as president of PharmacyChecker.com and founder of Prescription Justice, I submitted the concept for this panel to RightsCon, a conference that focuses on issues relating to human rights and the Internet, such as freedom of expression, curbing violent extremism, and privacy and data protection.
The panel included Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Andrew Goldman, Knowledge Ecology International; Burcu Kilic, Public Citizen; Paul Zickler, Canadian International Pharmacy Association, and Gabriel Levitt. We came together to push back against the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to control what is and is not permissible on the Internet when it comes to medication sales and the importation of prescription drugs for personal use.
My presentation’s focus was on the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to afford medication and how the Internet provides them with access to lower cost medication imported for personal use. I will follow-up with a more detailed report on the panel discussions and a workshop that followed, where we drafted a Statement of Principles for the online sale of medication, one inspired by the belief that access to affordable medications is an essential component to the fundamental human right to health.
Last week, an article was published by Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, under the appropriate title, “How Big Pharma’s Shadow Regulation Censors the Internet.” Basically, Jeremy explains that due to drug company money and political influence in the United States, there are activities going on both in plain view and behind the scenes that are meant to curtail and even end access by Americans to lower cost medications being sold on the Internet.
I’ve been writing about this – albeit in less Internet policy, theoretical terms – for years and testified before and warned Congress in 2013 on this issue. About a month ago, I published an article on Circle ID, a source of news and opinion about Internet policy and governance, describing the actions of drug companies to dominate the Internet. My hope was to reach people just like Jeremy Malcolm at organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). EFF is a non-governmental organization, founded in 1990 to defend civil liberties in the digital world. They champion “user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development.” Read about its awesome work and history here. (more…)