Well, here we go again, another bill that would formally legalize a practice that has been going on for decades: Americans importing meds from Canadian pharmacies, at the very least to cut down on their drug bills, and in some cases even to afford life-saving medicines. Sorry to sound cynical, but I’ve seen these bills before and Big Pharma is always behind their failure – but what about this time?
The bill, H.R. 2228, was introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) barely a week ago and co-sponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and is entitled “Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015.” It seems to mirror legislation in the Senate, S. 122, introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-NV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), which has the same title.
The bills are focused on Canadian pharmacies only, not the wider landscape of international online pharmacies, which are often based in Canada: ones that millions of Americans have benefited from for over a decade. If H.R. 2228 passes, the FDA would be required to publish a list of approved Canadian pharmacies from which Americans could legally import, for personal use, non-controlled, non-biologic, and non-temperature sensitive, prescription medications. That would include the majority of maintenance prescription drugs that Americans are currently importing for personal use.
I support this bill 100%. Even though our program is open to safe and licensed pharmacies in other countries, not just ones in Canada and the U.S., the new bill moves the public policy and economic justice needle in the right direction. The practice of international pharmacy began with Americans crossing the border to buy lower cost medications in Canada and then, with the advent of the Internet, buying through mail order. Current law, technically, bans the practice and, unjustly, views it as a criminal act – even though no one has been prosecuted for it. The new bill in the House and Senate would lift the unethical ban on buying lower cost medications for their own use from Canada. Amen and Word Up to that!
So head on over to RxRights.org to contact your elected representatives and let them know you want them to vote for the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015!
(Click here to skip the explanations and view the steps to finding a Canadian online pharmacy)
If you’ve seen one of the latest FDA press releases regarding Canadian pharmacies, you might be a little confused on how to find one. The FDA seems to acknowledge that there are legitimate – and therefore safe – Canadian pharmacies accessible online. Here’s what they say (with one word italicized by us):
“Don’t order medicines from web sites that claim to be Canadian pharmacies. Most are not legitimate pharmacies, and the drugs they supply are illegal and potentially dangerous.
Claiming to be a Canadian pharmacy is one of the hallmarks of Internet sites that sell illegal prescription drugs which, in many cases, are not made in Canada at all, but in a number of other countries. (Even if an online Canadian pharmacy is legitimate, in general, U.S. citizens cannot legally import prescription drugs from other countries. But that’s a separate issue. We’re talking here about fraud).”
The FDA’s focus on protecting you from online pharmacy fraud is commendable because that’s where the real health and safety threats reside. Since they don’t tell you how to find a legitimate, real Canadian pharmacy, we’re providing you with facts and guidance to help you make the right decisions for your health and prescription savings. Let’s remember, brand name medications sold in Canada and other non-U.S. pharmacies are often astronomically cheaper than ones here at home. (more…)
UPDATE: the video showing Senator’s Snowe’s floor remarks is no longer available. Please consult the congressional record for this date to read Senator Snowe’s full remarks.
In support of Senator John McCain’s amendment to facilitate safe personal drug importation from credentialed online pharmacies, Senator Olympia Snowe spoke comprehensively, passionately and honestly about the issue. Though the amendment did not pass, Americans interested in online pharmacies and drug affordability should be aware of some of Ms. Snowe’s most pertinent points in support of personal drug importation. The full senate floor presentation is available for viewing as well.
- “Americans are facing tremendous increases in prescription drug prices for far too long and I think it’s at a point in which Congress should address this issue,” said Senator Snowe. “In 2010 AARP found that retail prices for the most popular brand name drugs increased 41.5% while the consumer price index rose just 13%. In other words the cost of prescription drugs rose more than three times as much as the inflation rate.”
- Senator Snowe wisely reminded her colleagues that most of “America’s” drug products are already manufactured overseas. Senator Snowe points out that the very medications America consumes come from manufacturing facilities in over 50 countries and “not all of those facilities are even inspected….”
- We need a more competitive pharmaceutical market. Senator Snowe points out (by quoting a former Pfizer CEO) that more competition from imported medication will lead to lower prices, higher quality products, and more innovation.
- The amendment is far more modest than previous drug importation bills and only calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make a list of approved online pharmacies for personal drug importation but it would not allow for greater “wholesale” drug importation. PharmacyChecker.com already provides such a list that consumers can freely access. Ironically, while Senator Snowe didn’t mention it, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, actually published such a list when she was governor of Kansas for a state drug importation program.
For those interested in learning more about why personal drug importation should be made more available to Americans please watch Senator Snowe’s floor remarks.
The “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), currently before Congress, threatens online access to safe and affordable medication through reputable international online pharmacies. A CBS-Fort Myers report gives a human face to this issue by highlighting a Floridian senior, Mary Miller, who is able to afford her medication only because of a Canadian online pharmacy. If SOPA passes, Ms. Miller may lose access to that Canadian online pharmacy. The CBS report features RxRights.org as the lead organization helping Americans rally to contact their elected officials to oppose SOPA.
Stopping rogue sites in many areas, such as those sites that steal and re-sell copyrighted movies and music, sell knockoffs of designer handbags and clothes, and especially those that sell dangerous or fake medication is the right idea. But a bill that could takedown many websites that are exercising the rights of free speech, publishing music and movies legally, and especially websites selling safe and affordable medication, is a bill that should be abandoned post-haste.
RxRights.org should be loudly applauded for its work on behalf of Americans who are struggling to afford medication by educating Americans about SOPA and how it could block access to affordable prescription medication.
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…)