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.”