I’ve been around the consumer health world for long enough to have a good idea of which groups and individuals really want to find and spread the truth to Americans. Joe and Terry Graedon of the People’s Pharmacy are high on the list. So I was honored to read what they wrote about us (as people, the CEO and me, and as a company) in the latest edition of The Graedon’s Guide to Saving Money On Medicines:
“We have met the founders (Tod Cooperman, MD and Gabriel Levitt, MA). They have impressed us with their commitment to helping U.S. citizens obtain affordable and reliable medications. Even more helpful than the list of pharmacies are the PharmacyChecker.com price comparisons.”
“I represent safe and affordable imported medication. This bathwater is dangerous rogue pharmacy websites!”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a press release about Operation Pangea, an annual global initiative led by INTERPOL “to combat the unlawful sale and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit medical products on the internet.” This is the ninth annual operation, and each year I wonder if FDA will throw the baby out with the bathwater.
There are, according to FDA’s own sources, tens of thousands of drug-selling websites. Most of them are considered “rogue” by PharmacyChecker.com. Where the FDA and Operation Pangea successfully shut down sites (whether lawful or not) that intentionally sell counterfeit medications, or even online pharmacies that sell real medications but without the qualifications or pharmacy safety protocols to do so, we applaud their actions. Shutting down dangerous online pharmacies – throwing out the bathwater – is noble.
In February of last year we submitted a policy paper that I wrote to congressional committees with jurisdiction over laws and regulations that affect access to safe and affordable medications. Entitled “Online Pharmacies, Persona Drug Importation, and Public Health,” I argued that safe international online pharmacies are a boon to public health because they enable consumers to afford prescribed medications, and that overzealous enforcement of drug importation regulation could negatively affect access to those sites. Actions taken by FDA and through Operation Pangea would seem to cross the line from public health to Big Pharma profit protection where they curtail access to the safest international online pharmacies, which is throwing out the baby.
I’m pleased to announce that the Prescription Justice Action Group (PJAG) has a new and improved website; and for those of you that follow PharmacyChecker.com’s advocacy efforts on these blog pages I believe you’ll like it! The site just looks a lot better, it’s easier to use and therefore more helpful.
As a reminder, last November we announced the formation of PJAG, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending Americans if the FDA refuses and threatens to destroy their personal drug imports and advocating for policies to lower domestic drug prices. The motivation to start PJAG was the passage of legislation back in 2012 giving new, potentially harmful regulatory powers to the FDA. Often referred to as Section 708, the law allows FDA to more easily destroy personally imported medication. The new rules went into effect on October 15th of 2015.
FDA may be seizing medications in larger numbers ordered from rogue online pharmacies but to date they have not greatly increased refusals of medication ordered internationally from PharmacyChecker-approved online pharmacies. I write “greatly” because I’ve heard that there have been some increases. Historically, over 99% of prescription drug imports ordered from international online pharmacies that require a prescription have reached the patient.
PJAG’s website provides guidance to show consumers how to submit a letter to the FDA to defend a medication they have ordered from an international pharmacy, if they get a letter that it’s being held by the FDA and subject to destruction. It’s not easy and it takes patience but following PJAGs guidance could be helpful: at a maximum to get your medication back in the unlikely event it’s taken, and at minimum to send a message to the FDA that they took medication from you and now you can’t afford it. PJAG blogs that it’s working to create a web form portal to make the submission process easier. We’ll report back when that’s up and running.
Brand Name Crestor: Made in Puerto Rico under FDA’s regulations.
Rosuvastatin is now available in U.S. pharmacies as a generic but you can get Crestor 10mg, the brand version, 94% cheaper online. To put some flesh and bones, dollars and sense (pun intended) to this percentile: Ninety pills of generic rosuvastatin cost a whopping $795 at a Walgreens in Brooklyn, NY, but 90 pills of brand name Crestor is $45.65 at a low-cost international online pharmacy, one that is verified by PharmacyChecker.com.
What about using a prescription discount card to buy generic Crestor? Drug price comparison company GoodRx offers a coupon to be used at Rite Aid Pharmacy for a price of $329.52 – still more than seven times the price to get Crestor from an online pharmacy.
Care to know where these drugs are made? It may surprise you. (more…)
Too many Americans are being kept in the dark by the very governing authorities and companies that are meant to protect their health. The FDA goes too far in telling Americans not to buy lower cost medication from outside the country, and Big Pharma spends big money on media relations to generate stories about rogue online pharmacies that wrongly conflate them with safe international online pharmacies.
Today, as the Obama administration hosted a “public” forum (think invitation only) about pharmaceutical innovation, access and affordability, I announced the formation of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Americans get justice when it comes to prescription drug prices: Prescription Justice Action Group (PJAG). Whereas the administration’s public forum ignored personal drug importation, PJAG is providing guidance to Americans on what to do if their prescription drug orders are refused import by the FDA so they can try to have their medications released.
For about fifteen years, tens of millions of Americans have purchased medication from outside the U.S. –usually ordering it online. They do it because they want to save money or they really cannot afford the medication here at local pharmacies. The fact is that it has become a lifeline of lower cost medications for Americans.
But a new law – Section 708 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act – gives the FDA expanded powers to destroy your personally imported medications, whether bought from a Canadian, Indian, Turkish or U.K. pharmacy. That doesn’t mean they will. It just means that they can. That law became effective over a month ago, and we haven’t heard of increased FDA seizures and destructions of international prescription orders.
The FDA has stated, and we have re-affirmed on our blog and main website, that under most circumstances it’s technically illegal to import prescription medication for personal use. But is it really? Is it always?
Section 708 allows the FDA to detain and potentially destroy your prescription order if it appears to be misbranded, unapproved, counterfeit or adulterated. If they take your adulterated or counterfeit drugs then the FDA has done their job. Misbranded or unapproved drugs, in contrast, could be entirely safe and effective medications, the same or foreign versions of the ones you buy in the U.S., but much less expensive. Under Section 708, you must be notified by the FDA if they take your prescription drug import, and you have 20 days to challenge them on their action. PJAG, in consultation with legal advisers, believes that you can make a good case that FDA should not destroy the medication but instead send it to you.
There are many dangerous online pharmacies out there from which you don’t want to buy or import medication. We call them rogue online pharmacies. But if you import a genuine, safe and effective medication, one that was purchased from a PharmacyChecker.com-approved online pharmacy and you get a notification from the FDA telling you that your prescription drug order is subject to destruction…PJAG!