Using very similar talking points to Big Pharma-funded experts, in its quest to “educate” the public about the dangers of internet pharmacies and personal medicine imports, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) appears to have ignored the greatest pharmacy-related public health travesty happening right under its nose. Since the beginning of this century, billions of prescription opioid pills were wrongly, and in many cases unlawfully, pushed on and distributed to Americans. The result is about 500,000 deaths since 1999. The main culprits in sowing this drug epidemic are usually identified as big pharmaceutical companies and distributors.
Citing the case of the Rochester Drug Cooperative, I have asked before where the NABP was in tackling this opioid crisis. I was mostly referring to its quasi-regulatory role in certifying wholesale pharmacies through its Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributors (VAWD) program because all major distributors accredited through VAWD – AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health – have been implicated in the opioid epidemic. As reported in the New York Times last week, a new court filing provides details showing how major U.S. pharmacy retail giants – including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walmart – were “as complicit in perpetuating the crisis as the manufacturers and distributors of the addictive drugs.”
I was wondering whether the NABP might pipe up about this. Afterall, it is the U.S. boards of pharmacy that are most responsible for regulating retail pharmacy sales. Isn’t the NABP’s main focus supposed to be the public health as affected by retail pharmacy sales here in the United States? Instead, last week the NABP turned its attention to the dangers of internet pharmacies and rogue activity surrounding Covid-19. That’s a noble topic, but it’s also useful to deflect from breaking news about Big Pharmacy drug dealing! There are a lot of dangerous actors peddling fake treatments for Covid-19 over the Internet so warning the public is good. But, pre-pandemic, the NABP had already spent considerable effort targeting the Internet as a big problem in our nation’s opioid crisis. Here, too, websites that sell prescription opioids without requiring a prescription and ingredients used to make counterfeit opioid drugs are indeed a threat. But the government’s data is clear that the Internet accounts for a tiny fraction, far less than 1%, of prescription opioids obtained for getting high.
Will the NABP speak up about how its accredited pharmacies, the drug companies that sponsor its annual meeting, and the entire “legitimate” pharmaceutical supply chain are complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans from opioid drugs? Or will it keep talking about how it’s important to warn Americans against buying lower-cost, safe medicines from international pharmacies? And I’ll end with that rhetorical question.
Stay safe and be well.Tagged with: NABP, opioids