Our vice president, Gabriel Levitt (Gabe), presented testimony at a congressional hearing yesterday, urging congress to protect Americans’ access to safe and affordable medication online. The hearing was held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet and titled “The Role of Voluntary Agreements in the U.S. Intellectual Property System.” What exactly does this hearing have to do with Americans buying medication from Canada and other countries?
Basically, the government is encouraging large American companies to band together through “voluntary agreements” to stop online piracy and intellectual property violations online and this hearing discussed the effectiveness of these agreements. The heads of big business trade associations attended primarily to defend current practices and encourage even stricter rules. Although the hearing’s focus was about the online availability of copyright material like music and movies, some committee members were pleased to hear about the online pharmacy side of things. Gabe discussed the voluntary agreements adopted by leading Internet and credit card companies to combat rogue online pharmacies through their association in the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies , also known as CSIP. CSIP’s efforts, which rely on data powered by LegitScript, have successfully curbed access to some dangerous web pharmacies, but they also wrongly categorize all non-US online pharmacies that sell to Americans as “unapproved.” This may scare Americans away from safe and affordable pharmacies, including sites approved by PharmacyChecker.com. Gabe said:
We believe that voluntary agreements can be a useful tool in protecting Americans from counterfeit products, but they can also be misused in anti-competitive ways which scare and thwart Americans from accessing affordable medication. This leads to poor medication compliance with negative health consequences and also goes against the Administration’s desire that voluntary agreements not be used to impede competition.
We’d like to thank Subcommittee Ranking Member Congressman Melvin Watt who initiated the invitation to Mr. Levitt. While Congressman Watt favors voluntary agreements to combat online intellectual property violations, he genuinely sought insight into how American consumers can be negatively affected by such agreements. You can read the full PharmacyChecker.com congressional testimony and watch the hearing. (Gabe’s testimony begins at 58:00)
Tagged with: Congress, CSIP, Gabriel Levitt, House Judiciary Committee, LegitScript
Our vice president, Gabriel Levitt, submitted comments to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to emphasize that the Obama administration’s online pharmacy strategy curtails access by Americans to safe online pharmacies in its otherwise important efforts to combat “rogue” online pharmacies. Its Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) seeks to encourage companies, such as search engines, domain registrars, and credit card companies to prohibit services to dangerous web pharmacies. This may sound good, but all is not what it seems.
IPEC’s efforts led to the creation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), which in our opinion, is essentially a group of very important companies working together to fulfill the wishes of the pharmaceutical industry as they relate to online pharmacies. Founded partly by Google, CSIP is allied with big pharmaceutical and U.S. pharmacy interests, such as Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, LegitScript, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and the Partnership for Safe Medicines. All of these organizations are either fully or partially funded by drug companies or U.S. chain pharmacies, or are paid by the FDA, and help discourage safe personal drug importation while cracking down on real rogue sites. We abhor the former but support the latter. They label safe international online pharmacies as “rogue” or “illegitimate” – scaring people away from affordable medication online. We hope our advice to the U.S. government will help prevent further exacerbation of the problem of Americans skipping prescribed medication due to high drug prices in America.
Tagged with: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, CSIP, FDA, Partnership for Safe Medicines
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.”
Tagged with: Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, CSIP, Drug Prices, LegitScript, Online Pharmacies, Online Pharmacy Verification Services, PIPA, SOPA