Originally published on PharmacyChecker.com.
In America, tens of millions of people are skipping necessary medications because the prices are too high. PharmacyChecker exists to help people, mostly Americans, find prescription drug safety and savings information on the Internet. Founded in 2002, our greatest accomplishment is verifying and identifying the safest international online pharmacies, sites that process orders filled by licensed pharmacies in Canada and different countries that require a prescription. We’re bestknown for comparing drug prices among properly credentialed online pharmacies.
This week the Business Leaders for Health Care Transformation (BLHCT) sent a letter to the CEO of Microsoft, signed by over 1,100 business owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs and nearly 40 non-profit organizations:
“We do not all believe that having to personally import prescription medicines, using online pharmacies or otherwise, is the best solution for high drug prices in America, but we all recognize that it can be done safely and is a lifeline for many. To that effect, PharmacyChecker plays a valuable role in protecting consumers’ safety.”
The elephant in the room here: personal importation of prescription drugs is technically illegal under most circumstances. We get that. Still, millions of Americans buy medications from other countries each year, often online, because of cost and they are never prosecuted for doing so. Here’s the thing: We don’t sell medication, process or distribute prescription drugs in any manner. We verify and provide information. Period.
What’s up with the letter to Microsoft? What do they have to do with any of this?
In late 2018, things really went too far. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) added our website, www.pharmacychecker.com, to a list of “Not Recommended Sites,” an initiative initially funded by drug company giant Pfizer, ostensibly to help fight rogue online pharmacies and counterfeit drugs online. They even added PharmacyCheckerBlog.com to the list, a website where I write about policy and politics relating to drug prices, online pharmacies, and importation. That list mostly includes some really bad sites selling drugs, real and fake, mostly without requiring a prescription. We don’t belong on it and we sued NABP and other groups that we believe are funded by or allied with drug companies: Partnership for Safe Medicines, Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies and LegitScript.
Microsoft relies on the NABP’s list to place red, scary looking pop-up warnings on its search engine Bing against sites on that list. In other words, when people search for PharmacyChecker on Bing, they are warned against us and the click to our site is blocked. BLHCT’s letter states:
“Mr. Nadella, for the sake of public health, free speech, and fairness to American consumers who cannot afford their medications, take down the censorious warning on Bing against PharmacyChecker.com.”
Why does Big Pharma not like PharmacyChecker?
While we’re small, our very existence and message threatens the pharmaceutical industry’s greedy profit model and exposes its lies about prescription drug importation. Prescription drug importation, when orders are placed online and filled by licensed pharmacies that require a prescription, is not dangerous. Buying counterfeit medications and/or controlled drugs without a prescription online is. There’s a huge difference but one that the industry has probably spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to conflate for almost 20 years. One of my best articulations of this baloney was published in the NY Times in 2014.
For an objective treatment of this issue, please see: Personal medicine importation: What are the risks, and how can they be mitigated?
Thank you BLHCT!
In the Trenches to Lower Drug Prices
I have been fighting misinformation and lies by the drug companies for what is now approaching two decades. And I wholeheartedly agree with BLHCT that personal drug importation is not “the answer” to our drug prices problem. I started a non-profit organization called Prescription Justice that is dedicated to a future America where drug prices are lower and the need to go online for lower prices in other countries is greatly reduced. We’ll get there…
BLHCT and other others who backed this letter gave us much-needed back up. BLHCT believes that our employer-based health care system is broken. And, for the record, I agree. They know that drug prices are a big part of the problem and that the pharmaceutical industry is capable of the most egregious behavior to make sure America remains its captive marketplace. They understand exactly how wrong Microsoft is to cooperate with them.
Other organizations that signed the letter include:
- Social Security Works
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Treatment Action Group
- Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research
- Prescription Justice
- JustCare USA
- People’s Pharmacy
- Unfinished Business Foundation
- Hunger Free America
- American Sustainable Business Council
Notable individual signers include:
- Stephen Salant, Economics Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
- Roger Bate, PhD (formerly of the American Enterprise Institute)
- Monique Morrissey, PhD, Economist, Economic Policy Institute