I’m writing this blog post to say thank you to a domain registrar called EasyDNS and its CEO, Mark Jeftovic, and to talk about what’s up with registrars and online pharmacies, as it could affect your online access to safe and affordable medication. EasyDNS’s new online pharmacy policy denies service to rogue online pharmacies but not safe online pharmacies. It will accomplish this policy by providing service to online pharmacies only if they are approved by LegitScript or PharmacyChecker.
In short, domain registrars are companies that help people obtain website names; names such as www.rxrights.org, www.doctorswithoutborders.org, www.WebMD.com, www.nytimes.com, etc. The most popular of these registrars in America is Go Daddy. If all registrars deny service to a person or a company, such as a rogue online pharmacy, then it cannot reach the public. If all registrars deny service to safe online pharmacies with very low drug prices then the public will not have access to them.
Our friends at RxRights gave a strong shout out to EasyDNS this week as well.
You might be thinking that this is no big deal. Who wouldn’t want to stop rogue pharmacy sites but allow safe, low-cost online pharmacies to operate? Well, earlier this year the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) sent letters out to 200 registrars telling them to take down websites that NABP doesn’t recommend. No matter how safe it might be, the NABP does not recommend any international online pharmacy that sells to Americans, instead unfairly calling them rogue sites.
Popular Internet freedom blog Techdirt published an article about NABP called, “Pharmacy Group Lies To Registrars: If We Complain About A Site, It Must Be Taken Down No Questions Asked.” It wrote: “The NABP is basically an organization designed to artificially inflate the price of drugs in the US, cynically using highly questionable claims to pretend that they’re focused on ‘public safety.’”
For the record, there is not a single reported death by a person who ordered from an international online pharmacy, ones that NABP calls “rogue,” that requires a valid prescription and fills orders through licensed pharmacies. The industry has been around for about fifteen years now.
The NABP’s letter told registrars they do not need a court order to take down a pharmacy website; it’s sufficient that they are informed by NABP that a website is not legally compliant. At the time, EasyDNS’ policy was that it needed a court order before it would take down a website and Mark Jeftovic informed the NABP that it was simply wrong.
Mark was bold in standing up for Internet freedom when he told the NABP to go fly a kite. Recently, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked EasyDNS to take down a website that was selling controlled drugs without requiring a prescription. Someone died who ordered from that website, due to an overdose. EasyDNS agreed to take it down and published its reasons on its blog. While big pharma has spent the last decade fear-mongering about low cost foreign online pharmacies, it’s true that dangerous pharmacy sites need to be stopped.
EasyDNS’ online pharmacy policy is the best one for the public health, the cause of Internet freedom, and as a model for other registrars. PharmacyChecker.com evaluates online pharmacies for pharmacy licensure, prescription requirements and other safety criteria. LegitScript’s main focus is on the technical legality of online pharmacies in all jurisdictions in which they do business.
We’ve had and continue to have differences with LegitScript, a company that is instrumental in helping big pharma and U.S. pharmacies influence and pressure search engines, payment processors, and registrars to make it harder for consumers to reach safe international online pharmacies. Still, we agree with Mark when he writes:
“I’m aware of the rivalry and differences of philosophy between LegitScript and PharmacyChecker. One thing they do agree on, for the most part – are rogue pharmacy sites, those sending controlled substances without prescriptions, or just downright counterfeit, or sub-potent medications. At the end of the day, if they are approved by PharmacyChecker but not by LegitScript, it’s good enough for us.”
We do agree on that and more. PharmacyChecker.com and LegitScript both believe that an online pharmacy should only be “approved” if the orders placed are filled by a licensed pharmacy that requires a valid prescription for all prescription-only meds not just controlled drugs. We also agree that online pharmacies should be honest and let consumers know exactly where medications are coming from.
Where we strenuously disagree with LegitScript is about what Americans should and shouldn’t do when it comes to buying medications from Canada and other countries. PharmacyChecker.com believes that if Americans can’t afford their medication at a local pharmacy then it’s okay to obtain that medication where it is affordable, even if it is a technical violation of federal law. Medical ethics are clear that the first priority of healthcare providers is patients – even above the law [Also see the American Medical Association’s position]. The World Health Organization views access to essential medicines to be a human right.
The Internet is a minefield of bogus information about medications and buying drugs online. Thus, PharmacyChecker.com provides verification and price information about safe online pharmacies in and outside the United States. Americans and consumers everywhere are advantaged by this free information.
In contrast, Legit Script, through its funding and leadership in the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, is allied with drug companies and the U.S. pharmacy industry in a campaign that puts pressure on domain registrars and other online “gatekeepers,” such as search engines and credit card companies, to prevent Americans from buying lower cost medication from safe international online pharmacies. We believe that’s unethical and bad for the public health. Fifty million Americans ages 18 to 64 did not fill a prescription due to drug costs in 2012. Making it harder for Americans to obtain affordable medication will only exacerbate the crisis of high prescription drug costs.
I believe what EasyDNS and other registrars will eventually find is that most international online pharmacies, unfortunately, are rogues and only a minority are PharmacyChecker.com-approved. In terms of business calculations it might be easier to cave in to LegitScript and NABP, since the potential market for new websites purchased by safe international online pharmacy companies is not huge. I implore them to recognize that they are not only gatekeepers to the Internet but to the heart and soul of its future. Disallowing service to online pharmacies that clearly, objectively, help consumers afford medication they need is a perversion of the promise of the Internet and its potential to empower consumers.
Remember, Americans living on the border were buying medication in Canada before the Internet! The Internet became the main tool of communication to show Americans that drug prices are much lower in other countries. Canadian pharmacies, in compliance with their own laws, went online and showed America what was possible in terms of drug affordability. Wouldn’t the drug companies just love for Americans to be ignorant about much lower drug prices in other countries?! Cutting off the flow of that information is a form of censorship, inimical to the principles of free speech, and bad for the public health.
By standing up to LegitScript and NABP – who act in concert with drug companies and big pharmacy chains – and saying “no” to dangerous pharmacy websites but yes to safe international online pharmacies, registrars can play a critical role in protecting Internet freedom and the public health.Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, EasyDNS, LegitScript, NABP, Registrars