PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Did Instagram Shut Down our Account as Part of its Crackdown on Opioid Drugs: Protecting Patients or Big Pharma Censorship of Lower Drug Prices?

Instagram shut down our account

The pharmaceutical industry, generally, does not like our company. As an extension of that feeling, the FDA doesn’t love us either. Basically, we are in Big Pharma’s crosshairs because the information we provide helps people find more affordable medicines from other countries and import it for personal use.

But is that a reason for Instagram to shutdown our account!? That action is nothing less than corporate-inspired, government-encouraged censorship. Mike Masnick of TechDirt refers to this as the soft underbelly of Internet censorship. Also, please read this background from the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling out Big Pharma on this issue.

Congress and the FDA are banging on the door of Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. about stopping people from selling opioids on their platforms. We can debate until the cows come home about what content should be self-censored — meaning removed without a court order — but please hear me out on why Instagram’s dissing PharmacyChecker doesn’t even come close to acceptable and let us know if you agree or disagree.

First of all, PharmacyChecker.com does not sell or facilitate the sale of medication. Medications are not purchased on our site and we have no role in the processing of prescription orders. We verify credentials and publish information about online pharmacies and drug prices. That information is globally accessible on the Internet.

By the way, our Verification Program bans online pharmacies that ship controlled drugs of any kind into the U.S. This includes not only prescription opioids, but also Valium, Xanax, and Adderall. We’re with the DEA on strict controls and highly attuned to and concerned about the opioid crisis. I have friends who view our policy as too conservative. You get the picture.

We agree with cracking down against dealers of opioids, with Fentanyl being the greatest concern. On the other hand, we have seen Pharma and the government use a crackdown against addictive prescription drug sales online to veer into a crackdown against imports from Canada of decidedly regular meds that treat asthma, diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, etc.

We launched PharmacyChecker in 2003 to help people searching the Internet for lower medicine prices from real pharmacies, domestic and international. Our verification program is run by a licensed PharmD from Massachusetts, Dr. Shivam Patel. Pharmacies listed in our program must require valid prescriptions, sell only personal-use quantities, have a pharmacy license, and cannot sell controlled drugs of any kind internationally, into the U.S.

Feel free to read about our extensive protocols for verifying international online pharmacies.

In 2012, I was asked to write a chapter in a book called Hacking Politics, which is now published as an anthology about the battle to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act. My chapter was called the “Online Pharmacy Story.” In short, due to lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry, SOPA contained language that would have potentially made PharmacyChecker.com illegal at a maximum; at minimum, it would have increased our intermediary liability exposure. I strongly opposed it. And yet we see big industries moving SOPA by a thousand cuts.

I believe there’s some chance that Instagram dissed our account accidentally, based on a sweep of sites having to do with drugs, medicines, pharmacies, etc. But there’s also a small chance that Pharma’s influence led to the direct shutdown of our account as a slap in the face to PharmacyChecker advocacy efforts. I’m constantly criticizing Pharma’s propaganda about importation and online pharmacies our blog, in the New York Times, RightsCon, and directly to members of Congress in my testimony.

In fact, last year I caught PhRMA, meaning the big pharma trade association, placing Google ads using our name to dissuade people against importation of lower-cost medicines. As I wrote in our blog, that was a badge of honor but kind of disconcerting as well.

Late last month, the FDA called Instagram, Google, Reddit, and many others, to what was called the FDA Opioid Online Summit. I blogged about it beforehand mostly to note that groups funded by Pharma were well represented, ones that focus on opposing importation of lower-cost medicines and use the opioid crisis for that goal. Initially, the summit was billed as a public event, but it turns out that journalists were locked out and those that covered the public part did conclude that opioids were not the sole target, but cheaper meds were open season, too.

We want our Instagram account reinstated on principle, yet no one has responded to our multiple attempts at contacting Instagram’s customer support.

Anyone willing to weigh in on this?

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Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (safemedsonline.org) – Help or Harm for Consumers?

A new organization, the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) – safemedsonline.org – made its debut yesterday. Unfortunately, the group seems more focused on keeping its big corporate members in the good graces of the pharmaceutical industry and government than on helping American consumers. In fact, its actions may endanger public health.

This should come as no surprise, as the plan to create the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies was hatched by the White House Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator in 2010 which, as previously reported here, was handed the plan by the pharmaceutical industry. The plan fit very well with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) legislation which was eventually shelved.

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies has two main activities. The first is to educate, or more accurately, “scare,” the public away from using “illegal” pharmacies, which appear to include licensed and safe pharmacies outside the U.S. which sell genuine but lower priced medicine to Americans. The second is to work with the U.S. government to “shut down” chosen online pharmacies by blocking their ability to appear in online searches and to accept payments.

CSIP has handed over the job of deciding which online pharmacies are okay to LegitScript, which has its own suspect past and intentions. All non-US online pharmacies are branded “not approved” by LegitScript on the basis that it’s technically illegal to personally import most medications – even though the government, in its wisdom, has permitted it. Moreover, it appears that LegitScript is essentially a private sector extension of the FDA as evidenced by its $2.6 million government contract.

As part of its launch, the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies produced a scare video showing a caring, young woman go online to research and order lower-priced medication online for an elderly relative. The relative then falls ill and the young woman worries that the medicine may have been fake or even “rat poison” and, through the miracle of video, the clock is rolled back, the medicine is never ordered, and all is somehow well without the medicine.

This far-fetched horror flick is far more likely to scare people away from affordable medicine than keep them safe. It’s an indisputable fact that for more than a decade millions of Americans, many of whom have trouble paying for prescription medication in the United States, have safely filled their prescriptions, at much lower prices, through online pharmacies in Canada and other countries. Independent research has also shown that medicine ordered from sites approved by PharmacyChecker.com or the VIPPS Program is genuine. If CSIP’s well-funded public relations team could have found a person who was actually injured by ordering medicine with a prescription from an online pharmacy, they would not have had to create a fictitious character and story.

It is well document that tens of tens of millions of Americans go without medication each year due to cost and suffer real illness as a result. Keeping them “safe” means helping Americans find affordable medicine – not cutting a lifeline to it.

There are plenty of rogue pharmacies out there which CSIP can help root out – ones that sell fake medicine and don’t require prescriptions. We hope CSIP decides to focus all of its attention on these real dangers. If not, the real horror story could turn out to be CSIP itself when its actions increase the number of people who go without needed medication or are left impoverished due to prices at pharmacies of which CSIP “approves.”

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Congressional Online Piracy Legislation Faces Tidal Wave of Opposition

Americans, who struggle with the high cost of prescription medication and buy prescription drugs from safe non-U.S. online pharmacies, should include their voice in the swelling opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) before Congress.

SOPA and its counterpart legislation in the Senate, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), target reputable international online pharmacies, including those approved by PharmacyChecker.com, and seek to block access by Americans to safe and affordable prescription medication. These bills, if made into law, could be used to designate legitimate foreign online pharmacies as “dangers to the public health” and subject them to being blocked from the Internet as well as from appearing in search results and accepting credit card payments. 

Access to medication is just one part of the legislation, which also focuses on protecting copyrights. There is good reason to clamp down on online pirates and counterfeiters.  However,  as currently proposed, SOPA tramples on the U.S. Constitution, encourages censorship, stifles innovation, and even subverts our foreign policy efforts to encourage other governments to allow their citizens uncensored Internet access! For a fuller understanding of the access to affordable medicines issues at stake, please read: “SOPA will have grave effects on the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans”.

If you go to PharmacyChecker.com today, you’ll find that we’ve joined the huge opposition to SOPA by encouraging Americans to take action against this damaging legislation. You can protest SOPA now by contacting your elected officials from RxRight.org.

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