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Building Support for Safe Online Access to Affordable Medicines at RightsCon 2018

From left to right: Aria Iliad Ahmad, me, Dr. Jillian Clare Kohler, Tim Smith, Ron Andruff, Dr. Shivam Patel, Tracy Cooley, and Robert Guerra.

Last year I organized a panel at a conference called RightsCon to bring together Internet freedom and medicines rights activists to talk about buying medication online. And last week, I participated on a panel at RightsCon in Toronto that continued and strengthened those initial efforts. It was an honor to be on that panel, especially to hold discussions with academic experts in pharmaceutical safety and access with important roles working with the World Health Organization (WHO).

For those of you who are new to this blog, the work at RightsCon is directly relevant to PharmacyChecker’s mission to inform patients about safe and lower-cost medication options available on the Internet. Essentially, large pharmaceutical companies are lobbying governments and Internet companies to take actions that will prevent you from getting less expensive medications. This is also an issue about free speech and Internet freedom that should increasingly attract even more digital rights activists. Big Pharma is pressuring governments to pressure Internet gatekeepers to take down content. This is the Stop Online Piracy Act by a thousand cuts. We are trying to push back against that.

RightsCon is an annual conference focusing on the intersection of human rights and digital rights (issues related to the Internet). Access to medication has become an important issue at the United Nations, including by the Human Rights Council, which passed a resolution in 2016 declaring access to essential medicines a human right. Also, the UN convened a panel in 2016 dedicated to this issue, called the UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines. Thus, the title of this year’s panel was Making Safe Online Access to Affordable Medication Real: Address the UN Human Rights resolution for access to essential medicines. (more…)

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Online Access to Imported Medication: A Divine Right

A product of the RightsCon Conference, the completion of the Brussels Principles on Medication Sales over the Internet was announced last month. Those principles invoke international human rights law in defending the online sale and purchase of affordable medications that are imported by consumers. Many countries view access to healthcare and by extension to essential medications as a human right, which is reflected in recent declarations by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I happen to be a very patriotic American, one who believes in global cooperation, human rights law and the work of the United Nations as being good for our country. I respect that many Americans are turned off by or concerned about globalization, international agreements or the UN and we can disagree on that. But you know what, we don’t need global human rights law to make our case against Big Pharma and its price gouging: we have our Founding Fathers and national notions of liberty to rely on.

In considering the spirit of the July 4th holiday, it’s worth remembering that the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence do not guarantee us access to all we want or economic equality. I believe, however, that those rights include the freedom to purchase medication at a price we can afford and any laws that prevent us from doing so violate those rights.

Those sacred rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, according to the Founding Fathers, were not granted to us by government (or international organizations). They are divine rights. Think about that the next time you consider buying lower cost imported medication from Canada.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Brussels Principles promote online access to affordable medication

Principles to guide the Internet community on ethical medication sales

A few months back, I wrote about a panel that I put together as part of my work with PharmacyChecker.com and Prescription Justice, a non-profit group dedicated to ending the crisis of high drug prices in America. The panel was one of hundreds of sessions at the RightsCon Conference in Brussels, an event that brings together Internet freedom, human rights and social justice activists. The panel discussed issues related to buying medication online, Internet freedom, importation and drug affordability – and the negative impact of the pharmaceutical industry on all of the above.

Essentially, drug companies have spent millions of dollars on funding “non-profit” groups, public relations efforts, lobbying Congress and international organizations, Interpol (I kid you not), etc., with the goal of making it hard, if not impossible, for people to buy safe and lower cost medication online from other countries, which include people in America, that can’t afford it locally. Their activities intentionally conflate the intentional sale of counterfeit and substandard drugs with safe international online pharmacies.

The panel was a great step forward in giving the consumer side of this issue a larger voice. The panelists discussed and edited a draft set of principles on medication sales and the Internet. It took a while, but, on June 15, 2017, Knowledge Ecology International and Prescription Justice finalized and endorsed what we’re calling the Brussels Principles, which are published below. (more…)

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