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!
Tagged with: affordable prescriptions, Drug Importation, FDA, Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, international pharmacies, Online Pharmacies, pjag, Section 708
Americans should know about the heat coming down against the pharmaceutical industry from certain members of Congress in an effort to combat the public health crisis of high drug prices. This week, nine lawmakers from the House of Representatives announced the formation of a new group called the Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force. Its goals are clear, to lower cost barriers to life saving medication and to demand greater transparency about drug cost decisions made by the pharmaceutical industry.
Two pertinent facts were continually raised. One, high drug prices are the No. 1 healthcare issue in America. Two, medication prices are much lower in other countries, about 50% lower in the UK.
To announce the task force, a press conference was led by Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and included speeches by Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-MI), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD). We wrote about Rep. Cummings’ efforts a couple of weeks back as Congressman Cummings noted PharmacyChecker.com as a supporter of the Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015. I also want to note thank Congresswoman DeLauro for recently becoming a co-sponsor of the Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act of 2015.
The speakers have supported a variety of solutions to lowering drug prices, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies; ending “pay-for-delay,” a practice sometimes described as payoffs by brand drug patent holders to generic drug companies to that the latter will postpone launching a lower cost generic; reforming prescription drug importation laws to make it easier to access lower cost medications from other countries; and greater oversight into pharmaceutical industry pricing practices.
Some highlighted quotes or phrases:
- “If the people are not able to afford their prescriptions that means they suffer and in some instances they die.” Rep. Cummings.
- McDermott’s take: “The pharmaceutical companies have got the Congress in the palm of their hand and they will not let us go.”
- The problem of high drug prices was referred to as an “emergency situation” by Rep. Sander Levin.
It’s no secret that I support much of this agenda. But what is needed is bipartisanship, and I’m waiting for these leaders, as part of their noble effort, to consider looking critically at the Obama administration’s record on personal drug importation and online pharmacies. Candidate Obama in 2007 supported reforming the law to make it easier for Americans to import lower cost medication. Unfortunately, in its efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act, which I supported, the Obama administration made a deal with big pharma to change course and dump drug importation legal reform in exchange for pharma’s support for Obamacare and agreement to new discounts on Medicare Part D medications through the coverage gap (the “Donut hole”).
On that final note, the Obama administration, though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has announced a forum on drug prices to be held on November 20th. Maybe we’ll learn that the Obama administration’s position on prescription drug importation has returned to one more in line with most Americans. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
(You can view the complete press conference below)
Members of the newly formed Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force will hold a press conference announcing meaningful action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals. Who: Reps. Cummings, Doggett, McDermott, DeLauro, Schakowsky, and Welch.
Tagged with: Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force, Congress, David Cicilline, Drug Importation, Elijah Cummings, generic drugs, Jan Schakowsky, Jim McDermott, Marcy Kaptur, Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act, Peter Welch, Rosa DeLauro, Sander Levin, United States
Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force Press Conference – Nov 4, 2015
The City of Portland, Maine, is up in arms because the Maine Attorney General recently shutdown that city’s personal drug importation program, Portlandmeds, as reported by the Press Herald. Portlandmeds has saved the city $3.2 million over the past eight years, and is a clear example of a municipal drug importation program that has worked extremely well.
Public response has been critical of the ban. A Press Herald survey asked “Should Maine allow residents to purchased prescription drugs from Canada?” The response: 715 out of 769 – 93% – voted yes.
Portland City Mayor Michael Brennan and other city officials expressed their grievances to 9 of 10 of Portland’s State lawmakers, asking them to back a bill allowing Maine residents to import medication from Canada as well as other countries. Mayor Brennan communicated that Maine’s governor, Paul LePage also supports the resumption of the drug importation program.
Opponents of personal drug importation are almost always funded by corporate interests seeking to protect their profits. The opposition in Maine is no exception. The Retail Association of Maine, which includes on its executive board employees of huge pharmacy chains Walgreens and Walmart, vehemently opposes Portlandmeds. As reported in the Press Herald, that association’s executive director’s communicated: “CanaRx is not licensed to do business in Maine…That makes it difficult to know exactly where the drugs are coming from, and possibly puts patients at risk.” CanaRx – the Canadian pharmacy dispensing medication for the Portlandmeds program, is duly licensed in Canada where the medication is just as safe as the medication sold in the United States. We don’t know of a single adverse health effect after eight years of the successful Portlandmeds program.
We know how much money personal drug importation can save Americans – safely – and wish the City of Portland luck in resuming its program.
Tagged with: Drug Importation, Maine, Municipal Drug Importation, PortlandMeds