SOPA will have grave effects on the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans

We were pleased to see that this guest column from Lee Graczyk about SOPA was posted on Techdirt today.

The House Judiciary Committee today is holding a hearing to examine the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that proposes to address online copyright and trademark infringement by denying services to registrants, owners or operators of Internet sites. There has been much discussion on the technological implications of this bill, but Congress and the media have overlooked SOPA’s major health implications–it would take away Americans’ access to safe, affordable prescription medications from licensed, legitimate Canadian and other international pharmacies.

No one would disagree that websites illegally distributing “knock-off” goods, which include rogue online pharmacies, are a public menace. However, SOPA’s definition of an Internet site that endangers public health (even worse than in its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act) is so vague and broad that safe, legitimate Canadian and other international pharmacies could be shut-down “in the dark of night.”

This is because SOPA inappropriately groups together real pharmacies–licensed, legitimate pharmacies that require a doctor’s prescription and sell brand-name medications–and the rogues, who sell everything from diluted or counterfeit medicine to narcotics without a prescription.

This oversight is extremely dangerous for Americans (I am one of them) who rely on legitimate Canadian and other international pharmacies to import safe, affordable prescription medications they need to survive. For example, 90,000 people in Florida alone would lose access to safe, affordable prescription medications because of SOPA.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans import safe, affordable prescription drugs because they cannot afford the same brand-name medications that are sold in the U.S., which cost at least twice as much. Others refuse to pay the exorbitant costs of prescription medications when there is a more economical way that is just as safe.

The bottom line is that pharmacies accredited through organizations such as the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, Pharmacy Accreditation Services and Pharmacy Checker are the “real deal.” They sell brand-name prescription medications made by top manufacturers.

A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund highlights the need for drug importation. According to the survey on health insurance coverage, a staggering 48 million Americans ages 19-64 did not fill a prescription due to cost in 2010, which represents a 66 percent increase since 2001.

Americans, especially those without insurance and seniors living on fixed incomes, should not have to make choices like whether to fill their prescriptions or buy groceries for the week. Everyone, including those in the tech community with whom we agree on the overall negative impact of SOPA, should bear in mind the severe health implications of this bill, which would affect the well-being of patients across the U.S.

If Americans don’t take action to protect their right to safe and affordable medications, they could lose their access to safe, legitimate pharmacies and, therefore, vital medications they need to stay alive.