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!
Tagged with: affordable prescriptions, Big Pharma, Canadian pharmacies, H.R. 2228, House of Representatives, legalizing personal drug importation, personal drug importation, RxRights.org, S.122, Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015, Senate, United States
On February 12th of this year, we sent a comprehensive report about buying medication online to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Our purpose was to correct the public record by challenging a flawed report about Internet pharmacies written by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) back in 2013. The GAO’s report essentially parroted the narrative that the pharmaceutical companies, U.S. pharmacies, and FDA want you to hear, which ignores the existence of safe international online pharmacies that help Americans afford safe medication. Due to the incredible importance of this issue, we are publishing a section of our report each week. For the full report, click Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation and the Public Health.
This week you can read a “History of Online Pharmacies.” It’s not a comprehensive history but gives the reader enough background to digest the larger issues contained in the report. When you think about, online pharmacies are really “mail order pharmacies” with websites. Did you know that mail order pharmacy has been around for well over a hundred years?
Tagged with: Canadian pharmacies, CIPA, GAO, Kathleen Sebelius, mail-order pharmacies, Maine, NABP, PBM, pharmacychecker, VIPPS
The Internet has facilitated a major proliferation of mail-order pharmacy operations. Mail-order pharmacies are not new; they have served Americans since the late 1800s. Internet pharmacies, often referred to as “online pharmacies,” can be defined as websites that market and sell prescription medication over the Internet that is dispensed by mail-order. When they began operating in the mid to late 1990s, online pharmacies quickly became a subject of concern for federal regulators and Congress due to dangerous and illicit practices. The NABP created the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) in 1999, a voluntary program open to domestic pharmacies to help consumers identify safe online pharmacies.
Drugstore.com, which launched its website in 1999, was considered a first-mover in the industry and an example of a safe online pharmacy without a bricks-and-mortar presence. It required a valid prescription and dispensed medication from a licensed pharmacy. By the beginning of the last decade, most major chain pharmacies were doing business online by taking new and refill prescription orders, and mailing them across the country. Drugstore.com and most but not all online pharmacies associated with major chain pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) companies became VIPPS-approved by 2003.
Around 2000, Canadian pharmacies began online marketing to reach American consumers, which provided Americans with access to low-priced drugs. Previously, personal drug importation from Canada was relegated to those living on border-states. This issue also gained public attention through media coverage of bus trips, which brought seniors up to Canada to buy medication and were sometimes sponsored by U.S. politicians supportive of reforming drug importation laws. Canadian pharmacies later began partnering with licensed pharmacies in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, and later India and Turkey, as well as those in free trade zones. They did so in part to evade supply restrictions imposed by pharmaceutical companies against Canadian pharmacies, but also to take advantage of even lower drug prices found elsewhere and to increase profits.
In 2002, PharmacyChecker.com began operations to verify both U.S. and foreign online pharmacies – as well as to compare drug prices for consumers seeking the lowest prices for their medications. CIPA was founded that same year. CIPA’s vice president testified at a congressional hearing in 2003 entitled: “International Prescription Drug Parity: Are Americans Being Protected or Gouged?” In 2004, the FDA recognized PharmacyChecker.com’s efforts to help consumers find the lowest prices and directed people to www.pharmacychecker.com as part of media relations efforts to show that U.S. generic drug prices are lower in the U.S. than in Canada.
While the Internet has enabled millions of Americans to find safe and lower cost medication from outside the U.S., it has also created a public health minefield where dangerous websites posing as safe pharmacies, U.S. and foreign, are accessed every day. Such websites sell fake, adulterated and/or low quality medication, or genuine and safe prescription drugs but without requiring a prescription. These rogue online pharmacies are a serious threat to patient safety and have caused sickness and death.
While too many Americans today have online access to and buy from rogue foreign pharmacies, many are benefiting from safe foreign pharmacies. Americans, including elected officials and public health regulators, know that low-priced and safe prescription medication can be found online internationally. For instance, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius adopted a personal drug importation program when she was Governor of Kansas that allowed consumers to find international pharmacies over the Internet. The State of Maine recently updated its pharmacy licensure requirements to permit sales from pharmacies that are licensed in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, in effect abolishing state restrictions on personal drug imports from those countries.
(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…)
Tagged with: Canadian pharmacies, FDA, NABP, phrma