SOPA Will Have Grave Effects On The Health Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans

from the conflating-legal-and-rogue-foreign-pharamacies dept

This is a guest post from Lee Graczyk, lead organizer of RxRights, a national coalition of individuals and organizations concerned about the high cost of U.S. pharmaceuticals.

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.

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Comments on “SOPA Will Have Grave Effects On The Health Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans”

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29 Comments
tebee (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

But this begs the question of just why drugs cost so much more in the US than in other countries.

As a citizen of a country with affordable universal health care for all I find it very strange that so much effort is being put in to defend a health care system that costs more per capita to run than mine but only services a diminishing percentage of the population.

Is this just another example of the way the US is so screwed up these days? The rich and the corporations syphon off more of the counties wealth into their own coffers while the 99 % suffer?

Narcissus (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

As someone in a similar situation as yours, living in a country with reasonably priced excellent universal health care I always wonder the same.

What I find the most striking is that when Americans actually live in such a country they usually flip 100%. I know some Americans that lived in Germany for a while and they went from opposing UHC to fully supporting it because they saw how well it can work and how much better it is than the US.

It seems to be a matter of too little information. They simply dismiss it as socialism (thanks Reagan and Friedman) and don’t bother to investigate. Additionally the media in the US seems to be extremely US focused so if you want to know how things work in other countries you need to go to other sources which is too much work for most people.

Yes, I realise this is a gross generalisation.

Richard (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

In addition they see internal criticism of healthcare in such countries and conclude that the populations there would like to see the US system. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we (in the UK) complain about the NHS we just want it to work a bit better we certainly don’t want to swap it for the US system.

It probably needs more resources since it costs aound half what the US system costs. If we spent as much on healthcare as the US we could have a really good free universal system.

I reckon that the very existence of the US system (distorting the direction of medical research towards high cost treatments) is probably responsible for many of the problems that the NHS has!

JohnBear says:

Why Canada prices are lower

The reason drugs are cheaper in Canada is that the government sets the price of each drug. If the drug company refuses to sell at that price the Canadian government steals the drug formulation and gives it to a local generic manufacturer. They don’t account for the cost of research to develop that drug which of course has to be built into the drug price. So basically the US and Europe subsidize the 2nd and 3rd world contries drug costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree that SOPA is a horrible idea, but when it comes to prescription drugs the problem is our healthcare system.

Think about it for a moment, under what kind of a system is it cheaper to buy prescription drugs (or anything) from someone in a foreign country who imported them from your own country, rather than you buying those same prescription drugs from the supplier in your country?

They don’t get that discount for being a pharmacy that buys in bulk, otherwise American pharmacies could sell you the drugs for the same price.

The reason is because Canada’s government acts as the health insurance company for all Canadians, and negotiates such low cost prescription drugs for all their citizens. In the US however, we have hundreds of much smaller and weaker insurance companies, incapable of getting the same lower prices because having less leverage at the negotiation table, since they have fewer customers than Canada does.

The state of California has just as many people as Canada alone, so California ought to be able to get at least as good a deal on prescription drug costs as Canada, but they aren’t, because Californians are covered by dozens of much smaller and weaker insurance companies, if they even have health insurance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Actually Chris, it’s because of the liablity of selling drugs in the US, and has little to do with the patent system.

Consider the Fen Phen combo… “Upon the release of the information regarding fenfluramine’s cardiac risks, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America formed a large trial lawyer group to seek damages from American Home Products, the distributor of fenfluramine (Pondimin) and dexfenfluramine (Redux).Estimates of total liability ran as high as $14 billion”.

Yup, imagine that their liablity exposure was 14 billion dollars.

The results of this run away liablity issue is that every drug sold gets sold at a price that calculates in the risks involved in selling it. Even with FDA approval, even with extensive reviews and an insane amount of testing and re-testing, they are still on the hook for billions on every product line.

So that money ends up in the price of drugs.

The real downfall of the US is runaway lawsuits, not anything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

One of the reasons healthcare costs so much in the US is because people do not bargain shop for healthcare here. They pay what the doctor bills them, they don’t negotiate prices or go to another doctor. The mentality is , “It’s for my health so it doesn’t matter what it costs.”

Instead of universal healthcare we need patients who comparison shop for their healthcare. The doctors, pharmacutical companys, hostpitals, clinics, labs, etc. must be forced to realize that our economy cannot sustain health care expenditures that represent 17.3% of GDP (and climbing as a percentage).

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

One of the reasons healthcare costs so much in the US is because people do not bargain shop for healthcare here. They pay what the doctor bills them, they don’t negotiate prices or go to another doctor.

Pricing is non-negotiable, and often you do not know the price until after you are billed. At that point there can be no negotiation. Even so, it is incredibly difficult to hop from doctor to doctor as you suggest, and would be incredible stupid to do so.

Now, you add Medicare into the mix, and everyone is billed the same. I can look at my medicare summary and see what is being charged, and what medicare allows them to charge. That stays the same from doctor to doctor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

Pricing IS negotiable, PPOs do it all the time. And you don’t go in an buy a sofa without asking how much it costs, why should your medical care be any different. This is EXACTLY why the costs of healthcare have sky rocketed, because we let it!

As consumers we have the power to reject prices, trust me the providers will adjust prices if no one is willing to pay their standard rate. Why is it that physicians offer individuals without insurance a lower rate? Why should there be flexible pricing, if your insurance company is charged more for the same procedure than someone without insurance, it will be reflected in higher insurance premiums.

The medical providers are getting rich because you refuse to shop around for cheaper prices, it’s that simple. Your claim that it could be dangerous is laughable. I am not suggesting that you go to a different physician every time you need a procedure, but look for a lower cost provider and switch permenantly. If this keeps happening downward pricing pressure will force everyone to lower their fees.

Troy Harwood-Jones says:

US drug prices and the CIPA option

I commend Lee Graczyk for his unwavering campaign over the last 20 years to make safe and affordable medications available to Americans, particularly in the face of such powerful and well funded opponents as the Pharma lobby.

I am President of CIPA, the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Our pharmacies are licensed, legitimate, require prescriptions, and have a proven track record for safety. We do everything that we can to shepherd people away from dangerous rogues and to safe and legitimate international pharmacies.

I’m under no illusions that Americans want to buy international. The price of drugs in the US is just too high. If the price of drugs were to go down in the US, CIPA pharmacies might not be needed. What seems abundantly clear, however, is that the price of drugs in the US will not be becoming affordable any time soon. Until that time, legitimate international pharmacies are a vital lifeline for many Americans, particularly during hard financial times.

The trouble with SOPA is that it could actually put the safe and legitimate pharmacies like our members out of business, while the rogues just pop up on a new website like a game of “whack a mole.”

I am very troubled when I hear the likes of Pfizer saying that international pharmacies are engaged in “murder,” like he did at the SOPA hearing today. Lumping in the rogues with the real pharmacies may serve Pfizer’s corporate interests, but is morally offensive when one considers that hundreds of thousands of Americans are in real need of a safe and affordable pharmacy option right now, and that cutting off these websites jeopardizes their health.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

You miss out on so money things. Transportation costs, emergent care, etcetera. When you are taken via ambulance, you are taken to the nearest facility. You can request a different one, but they will charge you a transfer fee on top of that.

When you are dealing with a chronic illness that requires immediate care, you do not go to a new doctor, you go to one that knows your history, first. Why? Because they will have a better idea what to check for without spending the first hour and a half trying to get your history faxed and poring over it.

For someone so voluble about the subject you seem to miss out on the nitpicky details.

Brendan (profile) says:

Why Canada prices are lower

I commend countries willing to ignore IP (primarily drug patents) in the interest of the health of their citizens. There is no greater service they could do than ensure those who need meds can get them at an affordable price.

If Big Pharma won’t sell to Brazil or Mexico or even Canada at a price that work, we/they can just make ourselves. Go blow it out your ass. Corporate profits should never trump public health.

Gweedosezz (profile) says:

Buy why are prescriptions dearer in the US?

It is tuly amazing that here in the US, the same people who nall Universal Healthcare “Socialism” are at the same time protecting the biggest group of Socialists in the world, i.e., the Health Insurance industry.

These “Socialist Dictatorships” (Insurance Companies) function on the Marxist principal of “From each according to his ability, To each according to his needs. All run by an exhorbantly compensated “politoboro” of unelected adminstrators who have totalitarian authority to decide what are your abilities and what are your needs.

Should you object to them standing between you and your doctor, interfering in medical decisions and their rationing of medical care, your only recourse is to “defect” to another.

If we are so “Anti-Socialist”, why don’t we support a CAPITALIST medical system. One without insurance companies, where the individual pays for what they get and the prices are set by free market competition. You know the answer to that ….They actually love Socialism when it lines THEIR pockets and are terrified of real competition. If we had a CAPITALIST system, you would buy medical care like you do underwear, toothpaste, and video games. YOU would pay for what you get and vendors would have to compete with each other’s prices to get business. Instead you join a collective, pay in according to your ability, and collect according to your needs… the Politboro deciding both. That is what we currently have and THAT is a textbook definition of Socialism. If you hate Socialism so badly, Stop being a Socialist, cancel your insurance and pay your own damn medical bills!

Steve Rosenstein says:

Canada...a source for low priced generics

I am a retired pharmacist. Had opportunity to compare prices with Part D (which I also have). I have found in many cases the co-pay & charge against your part D account is much higher than paying the full price for a generic
version from Canada Phcy. In some cases 3 to 4 times the price. This enables me to hold off going into the “donut hole”. I was also under the impression that the 50% off prices in the donut hole would gradually be reduced even more over time.

Robert Wilson says:

Canadian Drugs

This is extremely serious. This past week I attempted to fill a prescription from my doctor for a particular medication. The two major drug chains in my town told me that the prescription was not covered by our insurance. However, the prescription cost was $382.00 for 60 tabs or $6.37 per tablet times two tabs per day is $12.73 a day. I immediately ordered the prescription from a Canadian Drug company and the cost was $90.00 for 200 tablets or $.45 each or $.90 for two tablets. So you think that the drug companies have not gotten control of Washington??

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