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A Great Read for Americans Who Want to Know What the Heck is Going in With Drug Prices!

...about the high cost of meds.

…about the high cost of meds.

For those who want a comprehensive but straightforward explanation about why drug prices are incredibly higher in the U.S. than in other countries, I strongly recommend reading in VOX, “The true story of America’s sky-high prescription drug prices.

Many of you know that in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, government agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies through myriad policy interventions to keep prescription drugs affordable for their citizens. This article explains how that’s done, why it works – but also identifies the tradeoffs where in some cases a new drug is not available outside the U.S. because regulators decide it doesn’t offer additional value over existing drugs.

It also addresses the issue of how research and development to find new drugs may be negatively affected if the U.S. institutes more control over drug prices. Some people argue that broader access to currently available drugs at lower prices means fewer new breakthrough drugs coming to market. [EDIT 12/9/2016: I wanted to make clear that many people do not agree with this position and argue that more drug company profits are spent on marketing and advertising than on research and development and the pharmaceutical industry greatly exaggerates the prospects of less innovation due to drug price controls].

In speaking with lots of people on different sides of the political spectrum and with contrasting governing philosophies — everyone agrees that us Americans are getting a bad deal on drug prices right now. This VOX piece really speaks to the issues at hand, objectively and truthfully, and if you’re interested in “getting it” you should read it.

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Will Trump Stand up to Big Pharma on Drug Importation to Tackle High Drug Prices?

We The PeopleFor the record, while I supported Obama for president, I was highly critical of the Obama administration for its obscenely cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, one that has led to unprecedented increases in drug prices during his tenure. During his first presidential campaign, President Obama had vowed to stand up to drug companies, and he supported allowing Americans to import medication to find savings in other countries. He ended up making a deal with Big Pharma to help him pass Obamacare, dumping his support for Medicare drug prices negotiations and importation.

Candidate Donald Trump voiced his support for federal drug price negotiations to bring down drug prices under Medicare and allowing consumers access to lower drug prices from overseas. Those are two policies that the pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars defeating over the past decade through large contributions to Democrats and Republican alike in Congress. Of course, Americans can order medications online from foreign countries and import them for personal use, but under the Obama administration it has become more difficult and remains technically illegal.

Mr. Trump states on his website: “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.” During the Republican Primary President-Elect Trump vowed to stand up to the drug companies, mocking the career politicians who take their money and do their bidding in Congress.

From the Right, Americans who hate the heavy hand of big government will laud a President Trump that tells the FDA not to interfere with their freedom to purchase a lower cost medication from Canada or another country. From the Left and in states that border Canada, such as Michigan, Americans would love to see a president who will stand up to the outrageous U.S. pricing policies of multinational pharmaceutical companies by taking actions to expand access lower cost imported medications.

With high drug prices viewed as the #1 healthcare cost concern in the county, ALL AMERICANS WANT TO SEE TRUMP STAND UP TO BIG PHARMA.

Now let’s see if he does.

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A Letter from 33 Members of Congress to Obama Commends Expressly Permitting-Legalizing Importation

We The PeopleEarlier this month 33 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking him to use executive authority to tackle the crisis of high drug prices in the U.S. The gist of the letter is that Congress is paralyzed (surprise surprise) to act. So, while we wait, and wait, and wait for Congress — the urgency of high drug prices calls for executive action.

One of the steps recommended is to expressly permit Americans to import lower cost medications for personal use. Well, Americans already do that and while its technically illegal, people aren’t prosecuted for doing so, and thus it’s generally permitted. But if it was expressly permitted it would remove the stigma of illegality, embolden many more consumers to import lower cost medication, deflate and defang the scare tactics of the pharmaceutical industry about importation and online pharmacies, and would instill more price competition into the U.S. market to bring down prices at local pharmacies.

A few questions. Don’t we need to pass a new law to “legalize” importation? Why do I choose to bold the phrase expressly permit? Would it be legal or expressly permitted? Maybe both? (more…)

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Electronic Frontier Foundation Calls Out Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, NABP, Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, and LegitScript for Internet Censorship

Americans Can't Afford It.

Americans Can’t Afford It.

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…)

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Forty-four Million Americans Find It’s Difficult to Afford Medication, According to New Kaiser Poll

What Americans think about drug prices...

What Americans think about drug prices…

A new poll by Kaiser Family Foundation found that 44 million Americans find it difficult to afford medication. Also, 77% of Americans believe drug prices are unreasonable, up from 72% last year. On the other hand, most Americans did not have trouble affording their medications. Of the 55% of Americans who take medication, 73% say they can afford them, 26% say that its’ difficult. (I’m not sure why that doesn’t round to 100%).

Overwhelming majorities of Americans support policies, legislative reforms in most cases, to bring down prescription drug prices and have access lower cost medications from Canada. The most popular policy would be forcing pharmaceutical companies to be transparent about their pricing of medication. The next two most favored policies are allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and expanding personal importation of lower cost medication from Canada.

The Kaiser Poll was a nationally representative random survey of 1204 adults living in the U.S. Public and voter opinions on drug prices are just one part of the survey, albeit the main one: but the poll also covers voter opinions and data about health insurance generally, Obamacare, premiums, and deductibles.

The Kaiser Poll has very interesting political analyses relating to how a person will vote in the upcoming presidential election and the candidates’ positions on prescription drug costs and other healthcare issues. If interested, the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are summed up on the blog of Prescription Justice. Both Clinton and Trump support expanding access to lower cost imported medications through personal importation, but Clinton has a much more ambitious plan, which is very much congruous with public opinion among Democratic and Republican voters.

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Talking with the Internet Community about Online Pharmacies and Drug Affordability

To affordable medication!

To affordable medication!

It’s a well-known fact that the pharmaceutical industry has the greatest lobbying prowess of any industry in America. That power enables them to drive law and policy here at home – including the creation and maintenance of laws that make it technically illegal to import lower cost medications from Canada and other countries. Such is the nature of political power in the United States. But things are different in the virtual world.

Big pharma is trying to have that same sway over the Internet in order to stop people from buying lower cost medications online – and they are having successes. But the Internet community and the access to medicines activists can team up to defeat them. In an article I published on Circle ID this week, I identify for the Internet community what it means to protect online access to safe and affordable medication.

Essentially, I propose that rules applied to medicine sales on the Internet should reflect the highest aspirations of human rights law, which hold that access to affordable medications are a human right. Under this perspective, companies, such as registries, registrars, online payment processors, and others, that control “access” to the Internet, should do everything they can to make sure Internet users have the widest possible online access to purchase medication they can afford. Who wouldn’t want that?

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