International pharmacy crackdown doesn’t represent progress for consumers
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) came out with another progress report on their Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program last week that uses some of the same old scare tactics.
The report is used as justification for NABP’s .Pharmacy Top-Level Domain (TLD) Program. The program switches eligible pharmacy websites from “.com” to “.pharmacy” domains. This distinction appears to have an admirable goal: to make sure consumers are safe from rogue “pharmacies” that would sell them counterfeit products.
The report focuses on the serious problem of opioid abuse. Certainly, international websites dispensing controlled substances without a prescription are operating illegally and are potentially lethal. Like NABP, we’re troubled by this and we agree that it’s not safe to buy pharmaceuticals from a website that doesn’t require a valid prescription. We are also concerned by the problem of rogue entities posing as pharmacies and selling counterfeit drugs.
Unfortunately, NABP chooses to lump the rogues in with the legitimate international online pharmacies. We disagree with the NABP notion that safe and legitimate international online pharmacies don’t exist. We disagree that when a pharmacy isn’t “domiciled in the United States” or a foreign medication is “not approved by the Food and Drug Administration” it is inherently unsafe. A number of countries have medication safety standards that equal or surpass our FDA.
We’re extremely concerned about the problem of unaffordable medicine in the United States—a problem that continues to worsen. We don’t think it’s fair that Americans have to pay two to four times more for medicine as other countries.
Nearly 4 million Americans per year depend on importation from international online pharmacies each year. They import medications because they can’t afford the high price of U.S. medications.
Consumers could benefit from some direction when choosing an online pharmacy to ensure safety. Theoretically, a domain like .pharmacy could help provide this safety net. But the qualifications laid out by NABP for the domain are biased against pharmacies based outside the U.S. It’s not surprising, since Big Pharma helped fund the initiative and stands to lose profits if Americans can buy cheaper medications elsewhere.
We believe consumers deserve accurate information. We believe they can be trusted to make good decisions when they have the facts. A true public health initiative wouldn’t scare patients away from legitimate pharmacies offering safe and affordable medicine.
We offer tips on our website regarding how to choose a safe online pharmacy. Somebody needs to be straight with the public.