Stopping Big Pharma From Using New .pharmacy Domain To Block Legal Pharmacies They Don't Like

from the speak-up dept

A few months ago, we wrote about how Big Pharma -- a collection of the largest pharmaceutical companies -- has been trying to get the .pharmacy generic top level domain from ICANN. The whole idea, of course, is actually to use it to block legitimate pharmacies that offer reimportation of drugs at cheaper prices. As you hopefully know, pharmaceuticals jack up the prices for Americans, and you can often get the exact same drugs from Canadian pharmacies. In fact, some US politicians -- including President Obama -- have supported this "reimportation" or "parallel importation" as a way to reduce the costs of healthcare.

But Big Pharma loves to conflate legitimate Canadian pharmacies with "rogue pharmacies" that sell either counterfeit drugs or just fake drugs. Of course, some studies have shown that much of the product from "rogue pharmacies" is actually genuine (killing off your customers isn't good business...), but the legal Canadian pharmacies still have a much higher level of legitimacy. And the pharmaceutical companies hate that, because they like their monopoly pricing.

RxRights, an organization that represents many of those Canadian pharmacies who are helping Americans get more affordable medicines so they can, you know, stay alive, has put together a petition asking ICANN not to support Big Pharma's digital landgrab.
Due to the applicant's history of actions positions, we have little doubt that, if approved, NABP will prevent safe, regulated and licensed Canadian and other international online pharmacies from registering domains in the .pharmacy gTLD. Such an action would block trusted distance care providers from utilizing the gTLD that global consumers will come to regard as a mark of authenticity for safe medication.

Large pharmaceutical companies and NABP---member U.S. pharmacies oppose personal importation because Americans can obtain identical, legitimate, but lower cost prescription medications through licensed online pharmacies domiciled outside the U.S. This opposition is significant in light of the fact that U.S. pharmaceutical companies have largely funded NABP's application for .pharmacy. Further, NABP uses funding from pharmaceutical companies and U.S. pharmacies for its programs and activities. We believe that it is an inherent conflict of interest. Through its .pharmacy application, NABP seeks to control access to affordable medication not just for Americans but for all global consumers with an Internet connection.

Large pharmaceutical firms seek to keep drug prices high for as long as possible through a combination of dubious and aggressive tactics, including regional differential pricing arrangements and payments to prevent the availability of lower cost generics. Their backing of the .pharmacy application seeks to extend these inflated pricing measures to the Internet retail sector.

The .pharmacy gTLD must be operated in a manner that ensures that this unique global Internet resource provides benefits to all consumers seeking access to safe and affordable medicines no matter where they reside. ICANN must act in the global public interest by ensuring that NABP cannot endanger hundreds of thousands of lives through control of .pharmacy. A fully inclusive advisory board that includes legitimate online pharmacies and consumer groups from around the world should set the registration policies for .pharmacy.

The problem of drug affordability is a global issue. Within the U.S., unique among wealthy nations, it is dire--the Commonwealth Fund reports that 50 million Americans chose not to fill a prescription last year because of high U.S. costs. If NABP's .pharmacy application is approved, access to affordable medicine will be further restricted through the denial of domain registrations to licensed and regulated providers of lower cost prescription drugs, compounding this public health crisis.

Please don't let that happen.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2013 @ 4:11pm

    Who cares? Seriously. Who. F'ing. Cares.

    Being able to use .pharmacy or not being able to use .pharmacy is not going to make it any harder for people to find these pharmacies or for these pharmacies to operate online.

    I'm very skeptical of the notion that the .pharmacy TLD will be seen as some sign of legitimacy that lacks.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2013 @ 4:39pm


      The idea that a company can monopolize a public TLD because they're big is the ridiculous part. You should at least recognize that.

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

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 13 Jul 2013 @ 3:55am


      sure, you are absolutely correct on one level, BUT, here is the long con i can see happening:

      1. emplace NEW! IMPROVED! tld's for no good reason other than a money grab...

      2. put control of these new tld's with establishment types who will NOT let in upstarts and competition...

      3. make it MANDATORY that "X" industry be on "X" tld to be declared 'safe' and 'trustworthy' by the gummint, etc...

      4. and -presto-changeo- all the pesky little mammals that are evolving to challenge the closed shop of crony capitalism are eliminated -or kneecapped- at a single stroke...

      5. Big (fill in the blank) wins, li'l peeps lose...

      (that's like 5 252 431 times in a row, you'd think we'd win one just by accident every once in a while...)

      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy

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

    • icon
      RyanNerd (profile), 14 Jul 2013 @ 5:05am


      Agreed. Just because ICANN create new TLDs doesn't mean it should. Seriously. How many of these TLDs do we really need?

      ICANN Stop already. You're not helping the Internet by making more TLDs. Just stop. Please.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2013 @ 7:48pm

    I'm sick and tired of big pharma stifling pharmaceutical innovation through patents. Abolish patents so that innovation can once again progress in the industry like it used to before patents destroyed it.

    and now patents seem to be starting to destroy innovation in the tech industry also. That needs to end.

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

  • identicon
    FreeCultureForFreePeople, 13 Jul 2013 @ 8:52am

    Let them do it

    ... and let's see how long their potential customers take to find out that buying your meds from an online shop ending with .pharmacy means higher prices for the same type of products found at much lower costs at domains NOT ending with .pharmacy.

    Let's make sure everyone associates pharmaceutical companies hosted on .pharmacy domains with "overpriced, without additional value, don't buy here".

    Give them a taste of their own medicine!

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

  • identicon
    Erbo, 15 Jul 2013 @ 12:26am

    The real issue

    Here's what the real issue is regarding drug pricing and overseas importation.

    Let's say PharmaCo creates a new drug for treating procrastination, Inaminutemomaphine. Their cost of production of the drug is $X, so they want to charge $Y for the medicine, where Y > X, to reflect the amortized cost of research and development of the drug, plus a certain amount of profit. Reasonable enough.

    The Republic of Elbonia, which has a socialized medicine system, tells PharmaCo, "We want to supply our citizens with Inaminutemomaphine, but we only want to pay $X for it, to keep our costs down."

    PharmaCo tries to say, "We've determined $Y is a fair price. Take it or leave it."

    Elbonia, though, says, "If you won't sell us Inaminutemomaphine at $X, we'll break your patents and produce it ourselves, and you'll get nothing for it."

    PharmaCo, believing "something" is better than "nothing" and having no recourse if Elbonia does break its patents, agrees. That means, however, that they can't cover the R&D on the drug. So they're forced to charge Americans $Z, where Z is decidedly greater than Y, just to make up for the fact that they're only charging the Elbonians $X.

    But why would Americans pay $Z for Inaminutemomaphine when they could contact an Elbonian pharmacy online and get genuine PharmaCo-branded Inaminutemomaphine for only $X? Well, PharmaCo and its cohorts got a law passed that forbids reimportation of medicines from outside the U.S., thereby forcing American consumers to pay $Z. (And which means that, if you do this, you're actually breaking the law. Sure, they might not prosecute you for

    Now, what PharmaCo should have done is tell the Elbonians, "Sure, you could break our patents. But, if you do, we'll just have to shut down all our drug R&D, since we won't be able to produce any new drugs without you stealing them, and you'll get no new medicines from us at any price." Perhaps that would have forced the Elbonians to reconsider their position.

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

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