PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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PhRMA Criticizes Obama’s New Budget For Requiring More Rebates on Prescription Drugs

“President Obama just released next year’s budget proposal and it has already sparked fierce criticism from the pharmaceutical industry. That’s because the plan would require Big Pharma to give an additional $156 billion in drug rebates over the next decade.” 
 
This news comes from RxRight.org’s latest blog post, entitled Big Pharma balks at President’s proposed budget. Not surprisingly, as articulated by its president, John Castellani, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is against the rebates and other reforms found in Obama’s budget. One point championed by Mr. Castellani as a reason to criticize President Obama is that the “Medicare Part D is working well for seniors.” While Part D has certainly helped many seniors afford needed medication, the RxRights post, and empirical data, show that millions of seniors still struggle to afford necessary, and sometimes life-saving, prescription drugs because of costs – despite Medicare Part D drugs plans. 
 
In fact, the failure of Medicare Part D is one reason that reputable international online pharmacies remain a lifeline for Medicare enrollees. It appears if Obama’s budget is approved, without changes to his prescription drug rebate requests, then more Americans will forgo the international option in favor of domestic pharmacies. 
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The Future of Online Pharmacy Drug Affordability in 2012 – A New Year’s Overview

Our blog was created on behalf of the American consumer, to inform Americans, and the larger community interested in public health, about issues relating to personal drug importation, online pharmacies and drug prices. The three issues are inextricably linked; Americans are able to personally import prescription drugs from safe online pharmacies at affordable drug prices. This has helped millions of Americans, most without health insurance and, or, pharmacy benefits, afford needed medication. In fact, many Americans personally import safe medication that they would otherwise go without if their only options were U.S. pharmacies. Stopping them from doing so would be unacceptable, unethical, and a threat to the public health, and yet we find that is precisely the outcome for 2012 sought by the pharmaceutical and U.S. pharmacy industries.

Under U.S. law it is, in most circumstances, illegal to personally import prescription medication. For over a decade now, Americans have nonetheless taken matters into their own hands by acquiring the non-controlled medication they need outside the United States; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has, for the most part, not stopped them. Throughout this period, the pharmaceutical industry has vigorously lobbied against personal drug importation to combat the price competition it brings, which means greater drug affordability for Americans but lower profits for pharmaceutical companies and sometimes U.S. pharmacies.

And their efforts have flourished. Over the past couple of years we have closely followed political, legislative and pharmaceutical industry initiatives to overhaul the status quo by bringing  an end to online access to affordable medication. At the crux of these anti-consumer efforts is their communications strategy of deceptively attempting to link safe international online pharmacies, which require a valid prescription, with rogue online pharmacies that sell dangerous medication and don’t require a prescription, as if they operate a single black market in deadly counterfeit drugs that needs shutting down. Through these efforts, they have scared Americans away from safe and affordable medication, but their final goal is actually stopping the trade all together.

While there are safe online pharmacies, domestic and foreign, there is a real danger of counterfeit and deadly drugs sold throughout the world, including the United States’ own supply, and through rogue online pharmacies, so let’s attack the true dangers! However, it is neither morally defensible nor necessary to prevent Americans from online access to safe international online pharmacies that sell genuine and affordable medication, often at an 80% discount.  

How loudly must we remind our leaders of the government’s own dire statistics? Twenty-five million Americans couldn’t afford to fill their prescription in 2009 (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Even worse, the Commonwealth Fund’s findings show that 48 million Americans did not fill a prescription in 2010 due to cost, a 66% increase in non-adherence since 2001 (see RxSOS). When people don’t take their medicine they can get sick and even die – and the reality is that too often they do.

Safe international online pharmacies may not be the long term solution to the emergency gripping the country in which so many go without needed medication due to cost, but for now such sites provide a lifeline for approximately one million Americans each year. Cutting that lifeline poses a danger to the public health and is just plain wrong.

In 2012 we hope our elected officials and policy-makers will have the courage to stop federal and legislative actions, mostly pushed by the pharmaceutical industry that would block online access to safe and affordable medication. Such leaders are desperately needed now by the tens of millions of Americans who can’t afford prescription drugs in the United States.  

To help protect online access to safe and affordable medication we encourage Americans to join and work with RxRights.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to this cause.

Wishing You A Healthy and Happy New Year.

Gabriel Levit
Vice President
PharmacyChecker.com

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Google Online Pharmacy Settlement With DOJ Hurts American Patients, According to AEI Scholar

Last week, Roger Bate, an economist and expert in counterfeit drugs with the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an article called “Google’s Ad Freedom Wrongly Curtailed.” Bate’s piece shows how banning safe foreign online pharmacies from advertising on Google and elsewhere is not only unethical but will lead to sub-optimal health outcomes. As we wrote at the end of August, the non-prosecution agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Google, in which the search engine was fined $500 million for allowing rouge Canadian sites to advertise controlled substances, is good because it forces Google to now block dangerous rogue online pharmacies from advertising. At the same time, however, it’s bad because it appears to prevent Google from allowing safe and affordable Canadian-based online pharmacies form advertising as well.

The DOJ/Google settlement appears to reflect the false rhetoric espoused by the U.S. government and pharmaceutical industry that only U.S. online pharmacies can be safe. Bate knows this is not true based on his own empirical studies, which found that properly credentialed non-U.S. online pharmacies sell genuine medication at a lower cost and require a prescription.  By blocking safe Canadian pharmacies from advertising to Americans on Google, it is more difficult for needy Americans to find them. Bate writes:

Google’s current policy removes the potentially lethal sellers, but by disallowing credentialed foreign sites from advertising it will harm public health. The tens of millions of uninsured Americans who cannot afford their drugs will go online to circumvent this obstruction. If they are unaware of pharmacychecker.com’s credentialing, they will play Russian roulette and may end up buying a lethal product.

With media outlets and politicians inundated with a voracious pharmaceutical industry public relations assault that seeks to paint all non-U.S. online pharmacies as rogue, the victim here is the American seeking affordable medication online because he or she can’t afford it here at home. Bate wrote: “What is surprising is that independent groups, like Consumer Reports and AARP, have bought into this industry rhetoric or have failed to properly explain to their members that foreign doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous.” (more…)

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U.S. Government Fed Up With Pharmaceutical Prices – FDA To The Rescue?

In March of this year the FDA took the unusual step of allowing an “unapproved” compounded drug to remain on the market to explicitly make sure Americans could afford that product. That drug is hydroxyprogesterone caproate, branded by K-V Pharmaceuticals as Makena, the first FDA-approved drug to prevent the risk of preterm birth in certain women. Will more such government interventions continue in support of drug affordability?

According to the Wall Street Journal Blog,“Typically, whenever a drug is approved, pharmacy compounding isn’t allowed and the FDA acts to remove any unapproved drugs that might on be the U.S. market.” However, the FDA is allowing the compound to remain solely because of the outrageous cost for the brand-name product; Makena is priced at $1,500 per dose! Before Makena was approved, the same drug without the K-V branding and FDA stamp of approval cost between $10 – 20 per dose.

To the best of our knowledge, the FDA’s role does not include controlling prices to help Americans have access to the medication they need. However, that is precisely what the FDA did in the case of Makena. In our opinion, that’s also what the FDA does by not enforcing certain personal drug importation laws that, if enforced, would prevent Americans from affording needed medication. Currently, under its personal drug importation policy, the FDA has stated it does not take enforcement action against individuals who import non-controlled medicines, which are generally (and ironically) viewed as not FDA-approved even if they’re the exact same drug sold here, often due to labelling or pill color and shape differences between otherwise identical products. (more…)

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The Protect Intellectual Property Act – S.968 Will Prevent Access To Medicines

Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed S. 968, Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, also known as the Protect IP Act. Its passage represents a real threat to Americans’ access to safe and affordable medications online and we hope that as the bill makes its way through the legislative process it will be amended appropriately.

Essentially, the bill will make it easier to crackdown on rogue pharmacy sites selling fake meds and not requiring a prescription, which is great; however, it will also encourage actions to block Americans’ access to reputable and affordable non-U.S. online pharmacies that sell genuine medication and require a prescription, which are a lifeline for uninsured Americans. That’s because of Section 5, which includes in its definition of “infringing sites” online pharmacies that sell medications to Americans that are not manufactured in a facility approved by the FDA. (more…)

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