Stay safe while shopping for affordable medications online
Americans sometimes want to know if rogue online pharmacies, especially foreign ones, REALLY sell bad medication or if it’s just one big conspiracy by the evil pharmaceutical industry to scare Americans away from saving a lot of money. Well, as critical of big pharma’s efforts to scare consumers away from lower cost and safe medication as I have been, the answer is, REALLY, yes. The dangers of buying a fake or otherwise harmful medication online from a foreign or domestic source, or even a real medication when you are not under the supervision of your healthcare provider, are real and serious.
What we know better than most is that consumers, empowered with the right information, can pay a lot less for medication by shopping online, internationally, and also avoid rogue online pharmacies. The right online pharmacy can save a person’s life and their finances because it sells safe medication at much lower cost than a local pharmacy – but the wrong online pharmacy could kill you.
We’ve updated our website’s content about rogue online pharmacies to better inform consumers, healthcare providers, and regulators who want to avoid such sites and teach others how to do so as well. We do give a list of rogue online pharmacies but it is far from comprehensive. Other companies and organizations spend a lot of effort compiling lists and identifying rogue online pharmacy sites (with tens of thousands of websites, many defunct): PharmacyChecker.com is in the business of verifying and identifying the safest and most affordable online pharmacies, not listing the thousands of rogue ones.
As we explain in the updated section of our website, when looking to buy meds online, the best way to avoid a rogue online pharmacy is to stick with websites approved by PharmacyChecker.com and other noted certification and verification organizations, specifically the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP), LegitScript, and the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). NABP’s VIPPS and LegitScript’s verification program validate safe and legal online pharmacies, but in a variety of ways wrongly conflate rogue sites with safe international online pharmacies, which can actually mislead consumers (see Rx Rights’ report on NABP and Techdirt’s description of LegitScript’s practices). That’s where the pharmaceutical industry conspiracy stuff comes in! CIPA’s online pharmacy standards are similar to, but not the same as, PharmacyChecker.com’s, and many of their members are also approved in our program – but we can’t vouch for those that are not. Regardless of the differences, all of us want to see consumers avoid dangerous drug-selling websites – often referred to as rogue online pharmacies – and some of us also want to maximize your online access to safe and affordable medication!
For the past three months or so, we’ve published a section a week of our report called “Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation and Public Health.” The report was written to call attention to a woefully flawed and highly misleading report published by the Government Accountability Office about Internet pharmacies and how best to carry out enforcement actions to protect consumers from rogue online pharmacies. Rogue pharmacy websites that endanger public health require serious efforts by regulators and law enforcement personnel, domestically and globally. However, instead of focusing all efforts on the tens of thousands of rouge pharmacy websites polluting the Internet, the federal government and private industry are also targeting the safest international online pharmacies, ones that Americans rely on to obtain affordable medication. Why?
Through this series on our blog, we’ve tried to draw the attention and understanding of our elected leaders and the public-at-large to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry, along with U.S. chain pharmacies, are clearly the ones driving policy, including enforcement priorities when it comes to the issue of online access to safe and affordable medication. In some cases, drug companies are directly funding law enforcement officials. And those companies don’t want Americans obtaining much more affordable and safe medication from pharmacies outside the U.S. And with that, we publish the conclusion to our report. (more…)
There are potentially tens of thousands of dangerous pharmacy websites, sometimes referred to as “rogue online pharmacies,” polluting the Internet and endangering the health of consumers worldwide. There are a much smaller group of safe domestic online pharmacies. Then there are an even smaller group of safe international online pharmacies, ones that we have verified, that sell many medications at much lower cost. However, when Americans purchase from these international online pharmacies (often because they can’t afford medication domestically) and import safe and effective medications, they are under most circumstances violating U.S. laws, which poses a quandary for regulators, public health officials, and even some people working over at Big Pharma. What’s right and wrong? How do we get rid of the rogues without overreaching and endangering public health by stopping Americans from obtaining safe medication internationally over the Internet?
When you’re fighting for something you believe in sometimes you lose perspective, and that can lead to overreaction and self-righteous indignation. I’ve been very critical of the FDA because I believe the agency is not doing right by Americans consumers on the issue of online pharmacies and personal drug importation. FDA seems incapable of admitting that there are safe international online pharmacies that help Americans afford medication, and its BeSafeRx program is right out of the big pharma playbook; and…wait, wait, there I go again…
The FDA, specifically its Office of Criminal Investigations, expends a lot of time and energy tracking down people who are intentionally selling fake, expired, or otherwise clearly dangerous pharmaceuticals. Those efforts save lives and ought to instill fear in those perpetrating these acts or those considering doing so. We should and do applaud FDA for those efforts. (more…)
I’m writing this blog post to say thank you to a domain registrar called EasyDNS and its CEO, Mark Jeftovic, and to talk about what’s up with registrars and online pharmacies, as it could affect your online access to safe and affordable medication. EasyDNS’s new online pharmacy policy denies service to rogue online pharmacies but not safe online pharmacies. It will accomplish this policy by providing service to online pharmacies only if they are approved by LegitScript or PharmacyChecker.
In short, domain registrars are companies that help people obtain website names; names such as www.rxrights.org, www.doctorswithoutborders.org, www.WebMD.com, www.nytimes.com, etc. The most popular of these registrars in America is Go Daddy. If all registrars deny service to a person or a company, such as a rogue online pharmacy, then it cannot reach the public. If all registrars deny service to safe online pharmacies with very low drug prices then the public will not have access to them.
You might be thinking that this is no big deal. Who wouldn’t want to stop rogue pharmacy sites but allow safe, low-cost online pharmacies to operate? Well, earlier this year the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) sent letters out to 200 registrars telling them to take down websites that NABP doesn’t recommend. No matter how safe it might be, the NABP does not recommend any international online pharmacy that sells to Americans, instead unfairly calling them rogue sites.
Popular Internet freedom blog Techdirt published an article about NABP called, “Pharmacy Group Lies To Registrars: If We Complain About A Site, It Must Be Taken Down No Questions Asked.” It wrote: “The NABP is basically an organization designed to artificially inflate the price of drugs in the US, cynically using highly questionable claims to pretend that they’re focused on ‘public safety.’”
For the record, there is not a single reported death by a person who ordered from an international online pharmacy, ones that NABP calls “rogue,” that requires a valid prescription and fills orders through licensed pharmacies. The industry has been around for about fifteen years now. (more…)
In online pharmacy news, the major story today is that FedEx was indicted for distributing controlled prescription drugs for Internet pharmacies to people who did not have valid prescriptions. FedEx claims it is not guilty and that its indictment and potential prosecution threaten a key principle of its business ethics and federal law: don’t open the mail. FedEx also says that for years they have asked the DEA for a list of targeted illegal online pharmacies but have not received one and that it cannot be expected to act as a law enforcement agency. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that FedEx specifically “conspired” with two online pharmacies selling controlled drugs without proper prescriptions.
I’m departing from this media hot topic (better you read it in Bloomberg, USA Today, etc) to give you some backstory on controlled drugs and Internet sales. Our blog’s usual focus is on consumers seeking non-controlled prescription drugs online, and the PharmacyChecker.com Verification bans online pharmacies that sell controlled without a valid prescription, and all international online pharmacies that sell controlled drugs into the U.S. However, some Americans try to obtain prescription narcotics and other controlled drugs without a prescription online, which can turn out deadly. (more…)