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Drug Safety Report By Institute of Medicine Ignores Research Showing Safety and Savings By Credentialed Foreign Online Pharmacies

A report on drug safety published today by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) identifies important threats to the public health from falsified and substandard drugs but seems to ignore the facts about online pharmacy safety and savings.  IOM’s report, “Countering the Problems of Falsified and Substandard Drugs,” which is funded by the FDA, wrongly concludes: “Trustworthy, accredited online drug stores do not sell medicine more cheaply than any other registered pharmacy would. Steep online discounts attract customers, but come from illegitimate vendors.” This conclusion is contradicted by a study in the References section of IOM’s report. That study is called “Unveiling the Mystery of Online Pharmacies: An Audit Study” and it’s published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The NBER study is clear that Americans achieve safety and huge savings when buying genuine medication ordered online from registered non-U.S. pharmacies approved by  Therefore, trustworthy online pharmacies, in fact, do offer much lower drug prices; they are, however, not based in the United States.

As we see it, the IOM’s report reflects the position of its funding source, the FDA, when it comes to online pharmacies. We believe that the FDA essentially allows but prefers to ignore safe personal drug importation in its consumer awareness campaigns.  Tens of millions of Americans forgo taking medication each year due to high domestic prescription costs, according to the Commonwealth Fund. It’s common sense that discouraging consumers from buying more affordable and safe medication online just because the pharmacy is outside the country will lead to fewer Americans getting the medications they need.   That’s because, as a CVS/Caremark study shows, high medication costs are the number one reason Americans skip their meds.

Like the FDA, the IOM report recommends that Americans only use online pharmacies approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program.  The main safety criteria for a VIPPS-approved online pharmacy are that its dispensing pharmacies are licensed, inspected by their governing regulatory authorities, and require prescriptions. online pharmacies meet those standards, which are verified for U.S. or qualified foreign pharmacies. VIPPS-approved online pharmacies cannot help Americans afford needed prescribed medication on many brand name drugs because their prices are much higher than licensed non-U.S. pharmacies. Furthermore, the NABP’s Internet pharmacy programs receive funding from pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, who don’t want Americans buying their medication at lower foreign prices, which could make one question NABP’s independence…


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