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.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 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.

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