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Big Pharma Firms Seeking .pharmacy Domain To Crowd Out Legitimate Foreign Pharmacies

from the killing-the-grey-market dept

For years, we've noted that the big drug companies like to conflate legitimate foreign pharmacies (often based in Canada) that sell back into the US (the so-called "reimportation" or "parallel import" market) at cheaper prices with out and out bogus or counterfeit online pharmacies. The drug companies like nothing better than when people lump the two very different beasts together and label them all as "counterfeit." Of course, for many Americans, relying on cheaper legit drugs from Canada is the only way they can survive, and there have been efforts made at times by US politicians -- including President Obama -- to support more parallel importation to ease the high cost of drugs in the US.

However, there's an interesting tidbit coming out in the ongoing battles over new top level domains. It appears that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is seeking a .pharmacy domain, which (obviously) they would then only bestow upon pharmacies that they like. That could be a big issue, because it's likely they wouldn't allow that for certain Canadian pharmacies and other foreign legitimate pharmacies that may offer cheaper drugs. Both Demand Progress and Public Citizen recently filed comments with ICANN about why NABP should not be allowed to control .pharmacy.

From Public Citizen's filing:
Granting the .pharmacy domain to NABP would confer legitimacy on pharmacies sanctioned by NABP, to the detriment of those that are not.

NABP has proposed an unfair standard that would bar online pharmacies that serve US consumers but are located outside of the United States from using the domain (see NABP’s application at Section 18(a) IV*). This would exclude many licensed pharmacies which offer American consumers low-cost medicines of quality.

Whether a pharmacy is located in the United States does not determine whether a pharmacy is licensed and provides medicines of quality.

Consumer access to medicines depends in significant part on price and competition. It would be inappropriate to allow NABP to control such an important gTLD while it maintains exclusionary plans for the domain, which work against the consumer interest in a robust market of quality affordable pharmaceuticals.
And, from Demand Progress's filing:
The pharmaceutical industry has prioritized trying to shut down legitimate pharmacies selling safe Canadian drugs to U.S. consumers (as currently allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). But their tactics to achieve these anti-consumer goals involve censorship regimes allowing government seizure of domains, blacklists of sites, or suspended hosting services for legitimate competitors.

NABP supporters have justified their actions by preying on consumer fear of counterfeiters, when their real goals include shutting down sites providing cheaper legitimate drugs. Pfizer joined the assault on the Net in 2011, testifying to Congress that: "The major threat to patients in the U.S., however, is the Internet..." ...

NABP's supporters define "fake pharmacies" as those not registered with VIPPS, rather than only those selling actual counterfeit goods.
The Demand Progress comment also points out how the big pharmaceutical companies supported SOPA and PIPA, since they knew that it, too, would be useful to use as a sledgehammer against foreign online pharmacies that sold legitimate drugs back into the US.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jeff (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 7:47am

    Get AARP involved?

    Is there a bat-signal for AARP? As I recall, weren't they all over the 'reimportation' issue? Despite the ability of "Big-Pharma" to throw enormous cash at this, I think AARP > NABP when it comes to influence within the hallowed halls of our sewers in DC.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    .drugs

    You know, the rest of the legitimate pharmacies could set up a competing domain, like .drugs, and exclude members of .pharmacy. Then the two domains can go head to head on quality and price. What a concept.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Atkray (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    Re: Get AARP involved?

    Alternatively, the AARP could register .licensedpharmacy

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    out_of_the_blow_and_into_AJ's_arsehole, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    AARP > NABP

    I think we may get a chance to have our valiant government representatives tear their hair out over this one. To whom do they pledge allegiance, The majority of the population or an industry bloated with cash? ...Oh, never mind, their hearts belong to the dark lord.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    "Whether a pharmacy is located in the United States does not determine whether a pharmacy is licensed and provides medicines of quality."

    Yeah, I LIKE the Populist aspects of lowering costs that Mike throws into this, and of course, in theory, there are consumer benefits, but he's yet again ignoring major questions to focus on very narrow points. -- The HUGE question hanging over all this is why prices ARE higher in the US! Once upon a time, in a relatively free and prosperous country now far, far away, industrial production lowered prices to peanuts, even though tax rates on both corporations and the 1% were HIGH, up to 90%! But that's no longer true now that corporations outright take over gov't, and The Rich escape taxes with all sorts of dodges. I say there's clear correlation. -- And back in those days, almost no one NEEDED expensive drugs, which is a whole 'nother can of worms too messy to go into here.

    The only way to get these and other pricing problems under control is to tax The Rich enough that they just don't bother trying to wring out yet more luxuries for themselves while impoverishing everyone else. -- High prices are a tax on YOU! -- Let's go back to the good old days when corporations served public interests, OR ELSE the executives got tossed into jail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Re: AARP > NABP

    @ "out_of_the_blow_and_into_AJ's_arsehole, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:58am

    AARP > NABP
    I think we may get a chance to have our valiant government representatives tear their hair out over this one. To whom do they pledge allegiance, The majority of the population or an industry bloated with cash? ...Oh, never mind, their hearts belong to the dark lord."



    TYPICAL TECHDIRT! Vulgar, stupid, and LIES that totally misrepresent the opposition here.

    You'll see from time stamps that I posted at nearly same time, but after, so there's absolutely no justification for this nasty little bit of NON-comment.


    And because such filth is common here I have a tagline for it:
    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    This is Techdirt! If you value civility leave at once!
    06:05:37[h- 26-1]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    And why is it economically to re-import something the US exported?

    Mike, you consistently miss the bigger problem in these Big Pharma stories about them trying to stop re-importing of cheaper Canadian drugs to the US.

    Under what kind of an economic system is it ever cheaper to buy a product from Person B who lives a few hundred miles away, that they bought from Person A (as well as paying for shipping both ways), rather then just buying that product directly from Person A in the first place who lives right next to you?

    The answer is only in a dysfunctional system that doesn't work.

    Canada's government is able to negotiate much cheaper prescription drug prices because their government covers everyone in Canada, which gives them tons of bargaining power. The US however has several hundreds rather small (compared to Canada) insurance companies, all divided into separate markets in each state. All of which are all too small and weak to negotiate a deal as good as Canada's government does.

    In reality the US ought to be able to get at least as a good a deal as Canada, if not better, at prescription drugs, seeing as Canada's entire population is about the size of California, or 1/10th of the US.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Vidiot (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Get AARP involved?

    Byt the time AARP members typed that TLD into their browsers, they would no longer need pharmaceuticals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    crade (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    The reason prices are higher in the U.S. is plainly because of drug patent law there. Many other countries have much looser laws on drug patents and don't grant as much monopoly power to the first company to patent the drug.

    Whether or not this means the U.S. is paying extra to front the development costs for other countries is debated, but the reason the drugs cost more in the U.S. is pretty plain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    "Let's go back to the good old days when corporations served public interests, OR ELSE the executives got tossed into jail."

    I think you blew a gasket.

    In what planet did corporations ever serve public interests (intentionally, at least)?

    The goal of a corporation is to make money for its stakeholders. Serving public interests is merely a by-product of their activity.

    Or do you actually think that the telephone company would ever build infrastructure out of the kindness of their hearts?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    ...and thus, nor does Hollywood have the right to extort nations over 0s and 1s.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Get AARP involved?

    Then register the domain .drugs instead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: AARP > NABP

    Pot meet kettle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    spacepirate, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    about time

    It's about time someone stood up to the NABP/VIPPS and their attempts to gain regulatory authority of all pharmacy businesses. This is a trade group representing the big brick and mortar pharmacies, not a government body. Their disdain for competition is not limited to Canadian or other international sources, they also target US based legal, licensed pharmacies that don't conform to their sponsors business models.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    do these domain names really matter? Are we suddenly not going to be able to find "genericdrugxyz.com" because it's not "genericdrugxyz.pharmacy"?

    unless they are going to outlaw .com/.org/.whatever/ etc., who really cares?

    I guess I'm just not seeing how these new top level domains will be valuable in any way. If I'm looking for netflix, I'll type netflix into my search bar, not netflix.movie.

     

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  16.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    no, li'l boy blue is actually technically right in this case:
    *SUPPOSEDLY* (yes, i know) corporations were ONLY *GRANTED* a charter IF their proposed project (they were originally mostly 'project based', not in perpetuity) WAS TO BENEFIT THE PUBLIC...

    *supposedly*, you were NOT to be granted a charter for the mere purpose of profit, there HAD TO be public benefit in order for 'us' to grant a corporation their charter...

    of course, that has all been corrupted to the point where REAL PEOPLE have LESS RIGHTS than legal fictions we now call people...
    welcome to bizarro world...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    In The Good Old Days, corporate charters contained a clause that required them to act in the public's interest (since being able to incorporate is a privilege granted by the state, this was the quo to the quid). Further, when corporations failed to do so, they had their charter revoked.

    There is no legal reason why we cannot return to that practice. And we should.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    Re: And why is it economically to re-import something the US exported?

    I have seen the disparity in prices and I don't understand why in US if a thing has Quality and is Necessary You pay more than anywhere else, but rubbish product is cheaper.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Get AARP involved?

    Yeah, but who the heck would want to type out .pharmacy, let alone .licensedpharmacy, at the end of every such site they visit?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 8:31pm

    Why does this matter?

    I agree with the Anonymous Coward in message # 15. There are many other domains that can be used (like .drugs, as others have suggested) but I'm not sure it matters. If it shows up in Google or other search results, nobody is really going to pay attention to the domain name anyway!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 18th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    Hey let's try this experiment.

    Take your post, and replace references to pharmacy with RIAA or MPAA and let's see how it sounds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 20th, 2013 @ 12:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Get AARP involved?

    I've already shotgunned that for when cocaine gets legalised!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 20th, 2013 @ 12:20am

    Re: Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    The US do not create all the new major breakthrough's in pharmaceuticals so the answer is obvious.

    They do however love ever-greening......

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 20th, 2013 @ 12:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Pharmacies outside US have no inherent right to US trade!

    Apart from the fact that your government is bought and paid for by, guess who?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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