PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Educating American Consumers About Buying Medications From Foreign Pharmacies: What’s Right and Wrong?

Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford medication, which can lead to more sickness, hospitalizations, and even death. Despite this public health crisis, our trusted regulatory authorities, the pharmaceutical industry, and U.S. pharmacy trade groups work together to scare Americans away from ordering much more affordable medications from foreign pharmacies. Is that right or wrong?

This week, in our continuing quest to get the truth out and for our elected leaders in Congress to take bold action to protect online access to safe and affordable medication, we’re publishing the next section of our report called Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation, and Public Health


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Internet Society and Online Access to Affordable Medication: The Problem with dot Pharmacy

We’ve talked a lot about the efforts of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), funded by big pharmaceutical companies, to curtail online access to safe and affordable medication by conflating rogue online pharmacies with safe international online pharmacies: most distressingly through its application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. I had the opportunity to present our position about the importance of maximizing online access to safe and affordable prescription drugs by participating on a panel organized by the Internet Society New York Chapter. The focus of the panel overall was on public interest commitments as they pertain to new generic top level domains (gTLD) (i.e., new domain endings such as .book, .amazon, .religion, .nyc, and .pharmacy). Such gTLD’s area acquired through the opening up of this space by ICANN.

The mission of the Internet Society is directly applicable to the issue of online access to affordable medicine:  “By connecting the world, working with others, and advocating for equal access to the Internet, the Internet Society strives to make the world a better place.”

The NY Chapter recently held a meeting in my home borough of Brooklyn! Members of the New York Chapter are currently concerned with potential abuses of the .nyc domain space. For example, the organizer of the panel and board member, Thomas Lowenhaput, is concerned that a corporation like Domino’s or Pizza Hut will own the domain, not only obtaining a commercial advantage but denigrating New York pizza’s culinary cultural soul. The heart and soul of New York pizza has nothing to do with national retail pizza chains so there should be safeguards preventing commercial abuses of those premium domain names. You get the idea!

On the panel, I talked about NABP’s plan to operate the domain space called .PHARMACY because we believe it furthers pharmaceutical corporate interests at the expense of consumers, although in this case the issue is health not pizza! I informed the meeting’s participants that the NABP’s application to ICANN to operate .PHARMACY was funded by pharmaceutical companies and that its domain registration policies will help serve their commercial interests. Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies prefer it when consumers pay much more at U.S. pharmacies for the same medicationssold in Canadian and other foreign pharmacies at a much lower cost.

NABP’s policies will prohibit a .PHARMACY registration to any non-U.S. pharmacy that sells medication to consumers in the U.S. The basis for its policy mirrors and relies on the discriminatory U.S. and state regulations prohibiting safe personal drug importation. In so doing, NABP is using the levers of Internet governance to support domestic policies that impede consumers from obtaining medications they need. Essentially, in the parlance of the Internet Society, I told the group that NABP’s vision of .PHARMACY undermines the Internet’s promise as a tool to “make the world a better place.”

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ICANN and Online Pharmacies: NABP’s Scheme for .Pharmacy is not What’s Best for Global Consumers

A Letter to the ICANN Community

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported on the subject s of rogue online pharmacies and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The gist of the article is that ICANN is not doing enough to stop dangerous pharmacy websites. There is reason to believe that ICANN could do more but it could also do too much to the detriment of consumers who cannot afford medication locally. There’s an appropriate middle ground for getting rid of rogue pharmacy sites, but not overreaching and ending online access to safe and affordable medication. Willfully ending such access threatens the public health and treads on global norms relating to human rights and access to medications.

Earlier this month I attended an ICANN conference for the first time, which was in Los Angeles. We’ve written on several occasions about the application by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to ICANN to operate a new generic top level domain (gTLD) called “.pharmacy”. To remind many of our readers, gTLDs are the endings of websites, such as .com, .org, .gov, .edu, .int, etc. The bottom line here is that we and many others believe that NABP, if its application is successful, will use its new ICANN-conferred legitimacy to stifle competition, mislead the public about online pharmacies, and in doing so curtail access by Americans and consumers worldwide to safe and affordable medication online.

I met many dedicated, interesting and well-informed people at the ICANN conference, including those serving within the ICANN community and others following it closely. To follow up with them I wrote the following letter.


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International Online Pharmacy Report for 2013: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This article summarizes good things and bad that are happening online with drug prices and savings, economics, legislation, politics, and even ethics that relate to access by Americans to more affordable medication offered by safe international online pharmacies. If you’re a consumer – especially an American consumer facing high drug costs – you should read this. When you’re done (or even right now!) we recommend joining RxRights to help play a role in making medication more affordable for all Americans.

Next year, we’re planning to focus more attention on local Americans pharmacies: what they’re doing right, wrong, and in between, and how you can save and take advantage of their in-store opportunities to improve your health! But for now, the international online pharmacy report…

The Good

The money Americans could save on brand name drugs by shopping at safe international online pharmacies continued to increase in 2013. In 2011 , we reported potential savings of 80%, then a mind-boggling 85% in 2012, and now 87.6% in 2013! Savings have proliferated because America’s trading partners, such as Australia, Canada, the states of the European Union, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, generally, have kept brand drug prices stable, whereas in America they increased by an estimated 13% last year.

The pricing data referred to above is from our prescription drug price savings research released this past September. In that report we looked at popular prescription drugs that are not always covered by health insurance plans, including new plans offered as a result of Obamacare. An extreme example of savings is on the drug Abilify 10 mg, a medication prescribed for depression; $9,007.08 could be saved annually by purchasing the drug from the lowest-cost online pharmacy verified by compared with a retail pharmacy in New York City.  A more common example of potential annual savings from international pharmacies is the $3,935.28 savings on Spiriva Handihaler 18 mcg. Drug prices are out of control in the U.S., especially for those with no domestic generic alternative, and access to international online pharmacies is as urgent as ever.

It would, of course, be better if Americans could find more reasonable prices on brand name drugs at their local pharmacies.


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RxRights Launches Petition Opposing New Pharmacy Domain

Our friends at RxRights have launched a petition to oppose the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) bid to control .pharmacy (dot pharmacy) – a new Internet domain that should be open to all reputable and safe online pharmacies, not just the ones that drug companies want you to use. Unfortunately, NABP has a history of discouraging Americans from using safe and affordable online pharmacies based in other countries and also taking money from drug companies to operate Internet pharmacy programs. For millions of Americans access to safe international online pharmacies is the only way to afford necessary medication. The bottom line is that NABP wants to block safe international online pharmacy from obtaining a website ending in .pharmacy, which is anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Don’t let them do it!!

Read why an NABP-controlled “.pharmacy” would harm millions of Americans.

Sign the RxRights petition here.

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