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Today, Tod Cooperman, MD, CEO and founder of PharmacyChecker and I sent the letter below to the Partnership for Safe Medicines (safemedicines.org) (PSM) asking them to correct information on their website that we believe is defamatory against PharmacyChecker. For years, the group was run by a vice president of Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America and continues what we believe is a smear campaign against PharmacyChecker – one funded by drug companies.

It’s not that they shouldn’t oppose drug importation as a means to lower drug prices: while I disagree with them, that’s fair game. What is not fair is publishing and making misleading, sometimes utterly false, statements that prompt people to avoid safe international online pharmacies that sell medicine they can actually afford. We’re tired of it.

Upon PSM correcting the information on their website, this blog post will be updated accordingly.

January 4, 2019

Mr. Shabbir J. Safdar
Executive Director
Partnership for Safe Medicines
315 Montgomery St, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94104

            Re:      Defamatory Misstatements about PharmacyChecker.com LLC published by

                        Partnership for Safe Medicines (SafeMedicines.org) (“PSM”)

Sent by email: shabbir@safemedicines.org

Dear Mr. Safdar:

We write to strongly urge that you correct, revise, or remove content that you recently published on your website (https://www.safemedicines.org/2018/11/drug-importation-is-a-bad-idea.html) that is rife with inaccurate, misleading, and defamatory assertions about our company, PharmacyChecker.com. This has been a modus operandi of your drug company-funded organization for many years, as exposed by independent reporting [See: https://khn.org/news/non-profit-linked-to-phrma-rolls-out-campaign-to-block-drug-imports/]. 

Attacking PharmacyChecker appears to us to be part of the Partnership for Safe Medicine’s smear campaign to frighten the U.S. public from purchasing prescription medication at lower prices from safe international online pharmacies. We understand that your campaign includes massive lobbying and public relations efforts against drug importation legislation, which, if enacted, would help lower drug prices. 

Among your offending statements are the following:

1. “Companies like PharmacyChecker are for-profit ventures that operate outside regulatory structures. There is no way to trust their inspection process.”

This is false. PharmacyChecker.com is an independently-owned, New York-based company that verifies online pharmacies and compares their drug prices. We do not, and have never, violated any regulatory structures applicable to our business.

Our inspection process can be trusted based on independent, peer-reviewed research that has consistently shown that pharmacies inspected by PharmacyChecker sell lawfully-manufactured and high-quality medicines.

As there is no global governmental standard for the evaluation of international online pharmacies, we have worked with leading, highly qualified and respected U.S. pharmacists to develop good international online pharmacy standards of practice, which include rigorous onsite inspections. Such experts include former Director of Quality Assurance for the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy, Kelly Ann Barnes, JD, Raphe; Andrew Brown, PharmD, RPh; and Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh, who is currently the director of our Verification Program.

Our standards, ongoing inspection program, and policies are publicly available [See: https://pharmacy.pharmacychecker.com/sealprogram/choose.asp].

2. “There is no legal recourse for an American citizen if they are injured by counterfeit or substandard medicines purchased from an online pharmacy, whether or not an independent pharmacy inspector has certified it.”

This is not true. Any online pharmacy verified by PharmacyChecker.com may only dispense medication to patients in the U.S. from pharmacies with appropriate licensure, i.e., pharmacies regulated by the appropriate agencies and institutions of their respective countries. Those agencies and institutions can act against such pharmacies. In the 16 years that we have operated, we are not aware any person having been “injured by counterfeit or substandard medicines purchased from an online pharmacy” verified by PharmacyChecker.

Outside of the online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com, there are dangerous rogue online pharmacies that do sell drugs shipped from unlicensed and criminal entities. If you cared about patients in America, you would advise them of this distinction so that they can avoid rogue pharmacies when ordering medication from abroad.

3. “Online pharmacies pay PharmacyChecker to be listed as approved on their site.”

This is not true. No pharmacy can pay PharmacyChecker to be approved. Online pharmacies pay a fee to apply to the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, which is no guarantee of approval. If they meet our rigorous standards and review, only then are they permitted to list on our site for which there is a fee for listing and for continual monitoring and re-evaluation. It is quite revealing that PSM hypocritically recommends the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy VIPPS program and LegitScript, which charge fees for pharmacies seeking accreditation. We hope this does not guarantee approval by those organizations.

4. “Their customers are online pharmacies, not patients.”

This is not true. We sell no products and have no customers. We operate to help consumers and do not consider pharmacies as customers but, like NABP and LegitScript, it is pharmacies and not patients that pay fees that enable us to maintain our programs, so that consumers do not have to pay for our information.

5. “Protecting the companies they proclaim safe is more important to them than patient safety.”

This is not only not true and unfounded, but it is also repugnant. Consumers are our first priority. In fact, our requirements are in line with and even go above those of many state pharmacy boards in the U.S. We are also recommended by top public health experts and doctors, such as Roger Bate from American Enterprise Institute and Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Kaiser Health News. Perhaps what you mean by “protecting the companies” is our steadfast and persistent advocacy to speak truth to power and defend facts about properly verified international online pharmacies so that the public will not believe groups that lie by saying there are no safe international online pharmacies.  

6. “In 2015, for example, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against CanadaDrugs.com, an online pharmacy certified by PharmacyChecker, for selling counterfeit and non-FDA approved cancer medications to American medical practices. According to the indictment, Ram Kamath, then Pharmacy Checker’s Director of Pharmacy Policy and International Verifications hid fake Avastin in his garage for CanadaDrugs.com subsidiaries until they could send it back to the United Kingdom.”

This is not true. While there was an indictment of a company called “Canada Drugs,” there was not indictment against the website CanadaDrugs.com. Only CanadaDrugs.com was verified by PharmacyChecker.com. CanadaDrugs.com never sold any Avastin, nor was it ever accused of or found to be selling any counterfeit or substandard drugs.

Dr. Kamath was a highly-qualified and experienced consultant to PharmacyChecker who advised us, as well as U.S. State governments on pharmacy policy and conducted inspections. Dr. Kamath was swept up, we believe unfairly, in this indictment for an action having nothing to do with his work for PharmacyChecker. Furthermore, the charges against him were dropped, which you fail to mention. As the Department of Justice knows, we had no knowledge of Dr. Kamath’s alleged acts until the indictment became known to us.

7. “The company continued to list CanadaDrugs.com as a recommended site until it could no longer legitimately pretend to look the other direction: when the internet pharmacy and its CEO signed plea agreements in 2018.”

This is not true. As noted above, the retail pharmacy service provided by CanadaDrugs.com was not the subject of the case to which you refer. For that reason, it continued to be licensed by the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba and it continued to be listed on PharmacyChecker.com. We never “[pretended] to look the other direction.” In fact, we blogged about the “Canada Drugs” case as early as 2012. Recognizing the important role of CanadaDrugs.com in helping Americans access lower-priced medicine, the U.S. government gave the owners of CanadaDrugs.com three months to wind down its international pharmacy sales to the U.S. The site continued to meet our standards until the day it removed itself from the PharmacyChecker Verification Program prior to its shutting down.

8. “Sadly, CanadaDrugs.com is not an isolated example. In a March 2017 blog post, LegitScript listed nine other cases of “Canadian” pharmacies certified by PharmacyChecker or the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) that had been prosecuted for dispensing drugs—including controlled substances—without prescriptions, for misrepresenting the source of their medicines, or for selling counterfeit medication.”

The few websites you note as “nine other cases” are all from 9 to12 years ago. We never verified a site that did not meet our standards. However, there were some companies that used bait-and-switch tactics and were subsequently terminated when we discovered that they were no longer meeting our standards. You also fail to note that most of these were U.S. pharmacies that were fully licensed by U.S. state pharmacy boards. Unfortunately, such boards, whose overall work is important and respected, often fail to stop U.S. pharmacies from operating in a dangerous manner.

Regarding LegitScript, its program now certifies sites that at one time were selling controlled drugs without a valid prescription, including from the UK. It also certifies a site called Kwikmed.com, which sells medicines without requiring a prescription based on an in-person medical consultation. Your former board member criticized PharmacyChecker for having verified Kwikmed back in 2009. We did so because it was operating safely in accordance with Utah pharmacy laws where it is licensed.

Moving forward, in addition to correcting the outrageous inaccuracies that you have published, perhaps you can muster the integrity to clearly explain that you are funded by pharmaceutical companies to lobby against the ability of Americans to obtain medication at lower prices outside the U.S.

We look forward to your revisions and corrections.

Sincerely,

Tod Cooperman, M.D. Founder and CEO

Gabriel Levitt, President and Co-founder

PharmacyChecker.com, LLC

cc:

Marvin D. Shepherd, PhD, President, Partnership for Safe Medicines

Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh, Director of Pharmacy Verification and Information, PharmacyChecker.com


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