Election Day Note: Advocate for Online Access to Affordable Medicine

Protect your RxRightsNo matter how you vote today, or which party you like (if one at all), you may have ended up on this blog because you’re tired of high drug prices or struggling to afford medications you need. PharmacyChecker.com advocates for maximizing consumer-access to the lowest cost, safe and effective medications. We believe that it’s completely unacceptable and unnecessary for tens of millions of Americans to skip filling prescriptions each year because of cost. High drug prices in America are a public health crisis.

Access to affordable medication is a global public health priority and many people view it as a human right. According to the World Health Organization, ten million deaths could be prevented globally by improving access to safe and affordable medication. We strongly believe that much more can and should be done at the global level to help citizens of developing countries obtain life-saving medicines.

Our advocacy focus is – not surprisingly – “online access” to lower-cost medications, which requires an open and free Internet through which consumers can buy medication from safe international online pharmacies. We are a member of the RxRights.org coalition, which focusses on safe personal drug importation through verified international online pharmacies. We strongly encourage you to join them. They have a following of almost 85,000 Americans. Joining is free and for those of you activist-types it could be fun.

There are multinational pharmaceutical corporate forces aligned with willing politicians who accept their campaign contributions to prevent you from obtaining safe lower cost medications from outside the U.S.  Pushing back and promoting online access to safe and affordable medication is not a liberal or conservative effort. It’s a big tent, non-partisan issue that draws consumers from all sides of the political fence who are tired of having to pay the world’s highest drug prices.

So, as long as you’re done voting, take this time to check out RxRights and stand up for more affordable medications!

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Fight the Tyranny of High Prescription Drug Prices this 4th of July

U.S. flag and pillAs we approach July 4th, a day to celebrate freedom in America, I urge you to stand up for your freedom to access safe and affordable medication!! Let’s face it: the global drug companies – big Pharma – would rather you pay higher prices for their medications because it makes them more money. In its infinite pandering to big Pharma, Congress included language in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 (FDASIA) – an otherwise pretty useful drug safety bill – expanding the authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to destroy safe, personally imported medications. In the spirit of independence – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – take this time to send a message to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking that she take the necessary actions to protect your prescription drug orders, ones ordered from safe international online pharmacies.

Thanks to RxRights.org for leading the charge on this effort!

The onerous language under discussion is found in Section 708 of FDASIA, which allows the FDA to destroy medication orders valued at $2500 or less that are refused import. The medications subject to refusal and destruction are those deemed “adulterated, misbranded or counterfeit.” Those words seem pretty scary but don’t be fooled. Unlike an adulterated or counterfeit drug, an imported ‘misbranded’ drug can be the same, safe and effective medication sold in a U.S. pharmacy but with a slightly different label.  Seizing and destroying a person’s safe prescription drug order is immoral, anti-American, and dangerous to that person’s health.

There’s a catch in the law, which actually invokes the Spirit of 1776. Before Section 708 goes into effect, the HHS Secretary shall draft proposed regulations to provide consumers with due process to “challenge the decision to destroy the drug.” That means Americans should have an opportunity when their medication orders are seized to tell the government “don’t destroy my safe prescription drug order.”  As the agency under HHS tasked with regulating the nation’s drug supply, it’s the FDA that leads the government in this process. FDA’s proposed regulations, which are open for public comment, were drafted and published in early May.  While they fail to provide what the law requires – “appropriate due process” – I believe they leave the door open to amend what they have proposed. This weekend I’ll be working to submit PharmacyChecker.com’s public comments to try and assist (persuade?) the FDA to issue a more consumer-friendly final regulation that protects your access to safe and affordable imported medication.

I invoke the spirits of our Founding Fathers to guide us in this fight for independence from the tyranny of high drug prices.

Happy Fourth of July!

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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 PharmacyChecker.com 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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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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The latest edition of NPR’s ongoing series, The View From Black America, focuses on Americans who live within fear of financial disaster due to high drug costs. In fact, one in four African-Americans struggle to afford medication, according to a national poll conducted by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Mike Jackson is one of the millions of Americans whose response to high drug prices was to scale back his medication (in his case, insulin). Mr. Jackson stated, “Instead of taking 60 units twice a day, I was taking 30 units twice a day….The idea behind that was if I watched what I would eat and then stay with the 30 units — I would keep my blood sugar down enough that hopefully it would not be much of a problem.” His medication cost almost $500 per month.

Mr. Jackson ended up with numbness in his foot and toes, and nerve damage in his eyes, sure signs that his diabetes had gone out of control. A trip to the ophthalmologist only added to his medical bills.

Ashley Liggins had to choose whether to purchase food, gas, or medication to control her blood pressure. When the choice comes between medicine and other essentials, like food for your family, sometimes expensive medicine may be the first to go. And this this was the decision made by Ms. Liggins, leading her to reduce doses and borrow pills from her mother.

We will continue to document cases of Americans getting sicker due to high drug prices. To take action on bringing down drug prices consider joining RxRights.org.

To listen to the NPR segment, click here.

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Opposition Grows to Pharma-Funded Application by NABP for .Pharmacy to ICANN

More public interest and consumer groups are hopping on the bandwagon to defend online access to safe and affordable medication. As we reported a few weeks back, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to administer a generic top level domain called “.Pharmacy” (dot pharmacy). NABP proposes to block all online pharmacies that fill orders internationally to Americans from obtaining a website that ends in .Pharmacy, including ones that are safe and approved by PharmacyChecker.com.  NABP’s critics, identified below, view its application as an effort to curtail consumer purchases of lower cost medicine from outside the United States. One of their main concerns is  that  NABP’s application is funded by Merck and Eli Lilly – big pharma: a situation prone to major conflicts of interest.

To read more about this issue see our press release.

This NABP/ICANN issue can be very confusing so I offer the following explanation.  ICANN is a non-profit organization that governs the world wide web system of domain names, such as .com, .org., and .edu. For a long time the available suffixes, called generic top-level domains (gTLDs)  that could be used for website names have been limited. Last year ICANN opened up a process by which companies and organizations could apply to act as registry – administrators – for new names, such as .career, .casino, .charity, etc.  In theory, this could open up new opportunities for innovation and development over the Internet. However, a pharma-funded initiative to make the rules and govern the Internet in an area as critical as the distribution of prescription medication will serve only to protect business interests to the detriment of consumers.

David Moon from Demand Progress, an Internet freedom group and lead organization in battling the Stop Online Piracy Act, sums it up perfectly: “From our direct experience with NABP and its allies in Internet policy disputes, there is ample cause to believe the applicant seeks to control .pharmacy to the detriment of free speech & access to safe and affordable medication for consumers.”

Here is a list of the groups and people who have voiced opposition and concern about NABP’s application for .Pharmacy:

Canadian International Pharmacy Association (Tim Smith, President)

Demand Progress (David Moon, Program Director)

Knowledge Ecology International – KEI (James Love, Director)

Mature Voices Minnesota (Robert E. Hines, Board Chair)

PharmacyChecker.com (Tod Cooperman,  MD, President and Gabriel Levitt, Vice President)

Public Citizen (Peter Maybarduk, JD, Global Access to Medicines Program Director)

Ram Kamath, PharmD (PharmacyChecker.com, Director of Pharmacy Policy and International Verifications).

RxRights.org (Lee Graczyk, Lead Organizer)

TodaysSeniorsNetwork.com (Daniel Hines)

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We applaud RxRights.org for its critical advocacy efforts on behalf of Americans who are struggling to afford prescription medication, including recent actions to defend the truth about safe international online pharmacies and savings. One new blog post features three video testimonials from Americans who import their medication, and another explains the facts about international online pharmacies. Check out Gary’s story:

First, Gary and the other Americans who offered testimonials should be commended for having the courage to speak up about ordering medication from international online pharmacies and discussing their drug affordability problems.

Gary orders his diabetes medication from Canada so he doesn’t have to forgo other needed household goods. He has been buying medication from Canada for many years and has “never had the first bit of problems.” But the drug companies – and even the FDA – will lead you to believe that this is dangerous! So why is Gary so comfortable using international online pharmacies?

Well, the other blog post gives us the answer: The only real difference between medications sent by mail from a licensed international pharmacy and what you can find in a neighborhood pharmacy is the cost. In fact, you can save between 50 and 80 percent by ordering online internationally and receive the same exact medicine!

To view the other testimonials, click here.

To read more facts about international online pharmacies, visit this post.

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The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to operate the registry .Pharmacy (dot pharmacy). Opposition to the application is picking up steam. Many believe that NABP’s efforts will merely serve to protect U.S. pharmacy and pharmaceutical interests at the expense of the public health by barring competition from safe non-U.S., international online pharmacies, which sell the same prescription drugs sold in the U.S. at a much lower price. Not only is the NABP application to ICANN is funded by pharmaceutical companies, but NABP’s named “Partners” in the ICANN application include Eli Lilly, a large drug company and the National Association of Chain Drugstores, a trade association representing the largest American pharmacy chains.

Opposition to NABP’s application to ICANN for .Pharmacy Registry

Public Citizen Position on NABPs Application to ICANN for .Pharmacy

RxRights.org Position on NABPs Application to ICANN for.Pharmacy

PharmacyChecker.com Position on NABPs Application to ICANN for .Pharmacy

If given the power to oversee the registry for the .Pharmacy top-level domain, the NABP would decide which websites are permitted to use the .Pharmacy ending in their web address. It appears that the NABP’s proposed registry rules would prohibit registry to websites of safe international online pharmacies (such as websites run by licensed Canadian pharmacies) if they sell internationally to Americans. The lack of a “.Pharmacy” address by such pharmacies could frighten Americans away from using them. Considering that tens of millions of Americans don’t take medication due to high U.S. drug prices, discouraging or blocking access to affordable medication is unconscionable.

As recognized in a letter sent from RxRights.org to NABP, it does not have to be this way. The goal of providing a trusted marketplace for consumers who are searching online for safe and affordable medication can be served with a .Pharmacy website program. However, to provide the greatest benefit to consumers, ALL online pharmacies, U.S., Canadian, or otherwise, that sell authentic medication and require prescriptions should be eligible to obtain a .Pharmacy site, regardless of who they sell to. Unless the NABP agrees to adopt registry rules fostering an open and free Internet, one that maximizes access to safe and affordable medication, its application should be rejected by ICANN.

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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.

Today we’d like to feature content from our ally RxRights.org, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting access to safe and affordable personal drug importation through verified online pharmacies:

Lee Graczyk, RxRights lead organizer, felt compelled to respond to a recent Washington Post editorial about the problem of Internet piracy and the legislation that has been crafted to address it. Though we have not had much luck getting the Post to publish Lee’s responses in the past, he
continues to try, and wanted to share his latest effort.

The Post editorial board was on target in stating that the Stop Online Piracy Act’s (SOPA) definition of a rogue site is dangerously overbroad and could threaten legitimate Web sites [“A fair block on Internet piracy” editorial, Jan. 3.] Its explanation, however, could go further to discuss the implications SOPA would have on Americans who import their medications from legitimate pharmacies.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans–90,000 people in Florida alone–rely on ordering vital prescription medications from safe, licensed Canadian and other international pharmacies, mostly due to the exorbitant costs of prescription drugs in the U.S. If passed, SOPA would take away Americans’ access to these pharmacies. This is because the bill inappropriately groups together real pharmacies–licensed, legitimate pharmacies that require a doctor’s prescription and sell brand-name medications–and the rogues that sell everything from diluted or counterfeit medicine to narcotics without a prescription.
As legislators continue to move forward with SOPA, as well as its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act, they should recognize this is not only an Internet infrastructure and security matter, but also a grave health concern.


This article can also be found on RxRights.org. PharmacyChecker.com is an RxRights coalition member.