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Internet Society and Online Access to Affordable Medication: The Problem with dot Pharmacy

We’ve talked a lot about the efforts of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), funded by big pharmaceutical companies, to curtail online access to safe and affordable medication by conflating rogue online pharmacies with safe international online pharmacies: most distressingly through its application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. I had the opportunity to present our position about the importance of maximizing online access to safe and affordable prescription drugs by participating on a panel organized by the Internet Society New York Chapter. The focus of the panel overall was on public interest commitments as they pertain to new generic top level domains (gTLD) (i.e., new domain endings such as .book, .amazon, .religion, .nyc, and .pharmacy). Such gTLD’s area acquired through the opening up of this space by ICANN.

The mission of the Internet Society is directly applicable to the issue of online access to affordable medicine:  “By connecting the world, working with others, and advocating for equal access to the Internet, the Internet Society strives to make the world a better place.”

The NY Chapter recently held a meeting in my home borough of Brooklyn! Members of the New York Chapter are currently concerned with potential abuses of the .nyc domain space. For example, the organizer of the panel and board member, Thomas Lowenhaput, is concerned that a corporation like Domino’s or Pizza Hut will own the domain, not only obtaining a commercial advantage but denigrating New York pizza’s culinary cultural soul. The heart and soul of New York pizza has nothing to do with national retail pizza chains so there should be safeguards preventing commercial abuses of those premium domain names. You get the idea!

On the panel, I talked about NABP’s plan to operate the domain space called .PHARMACY because we believe it furthers pharmaceutical corporate interests at the expense of consumers, although in this case the issue is health not pizza! I informed the meeting’s participants that the NABP’s application to ICANN to operate .PHARMACY was funded by pharmaceutical companies and that its domain registration policies will help serve their commercial interests. Not surprisingly, pharmaceutical companies prefer it when consumers pay much more at U.S. pharmacies for the same medications sold in Canadian and other foreign pharmacies at a much lower cost.

NABP’s policies will prohibit a .PHARMACY registration to any non-U.S. pharmacy that sells medication to consumers in the U.S. The basis for its policy mirrors and relies on the discriminatory U.S. and state regulations prohibiting safe personal drug importation. In so doing, NABP is using the levers of Internet governance to support domestic policies that impede consumers from obtaining medications they need. Essentially, in the parlance of the Internet Society, I told the group that NABP’s vision of .PHARMACY undermines the Internet’s promise as a tool to “make the world a better place.”

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