Obamacare was touted as the most significant health care “reform” law in the history of the country, but it was neither revolutionary nor useful. Especially when you consider all that its supporters said it would do for ordinary Americans.
What it did do was cause was higher health insurance premiums, the loss of physicians and existing healthcare plans, higher deductibles and no cost savings overall throughout the U.S. healthcare industry.
Another thing it did not accomplish: Breaking the power and influence of Big Pharma so that Americans would be free to buy cheaper medicinal alternatives from other nations.
Tech Dirt noted that the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that helps defend civil liberties in the digital world, is currently working on a series regarding “shadow regulations.” One segment focuses on how U.S. pharmaceutical firms are working to keep more affordable medications out of reach for Americans.
Provisions are in place for Americans to buy drugs more cheaply – but Big Pharma is blocking them
The analysis and examination of just how Big Pharma is doing this goes well beyond what most already know: That patents and regulations have established a skewed U.S. marketplace that puts healthy profits ahead of healthy Americans.
But, as EFF and Tech Dirt point out, what is not common knowledge is that Big Pharma companies have “partnered” with Internet intermediaries to keep Americans locked out of buying options that have actually been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. To hear U.S. pharmaceutical firms tell it, buying drugs from other countries (where prices are almost always cheaper), is very dangerous, if not illegal.
However, that’s simply not the case. As noted by the FDA’s senior associate commission for policy, planning and legislation, William K. Hubbard:
Discretionary guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and enforced by the [Customs and Border Protection] allow American consumers to import a 90-day supply of some prescription medications for personal use, including by bringing them across border checkpoints in personal luggage, or by mailing them from overseas.
Hubbard went on to say in his testimony before the House Committee on energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (June 7, 2001) that in the latter case a very large market existed for pharmacies that were registered in other countries like Canada, Australia and Turkey that would accept online orders and mail real drugs to U.S. consumers at cheaper prices.
But several industry groups – most of which used the word “safe” in their names to give the impression that buying drugs outside the U.S. or anywhere they did not want you to buy them was “dangerous” – have singled out some foreign sellers, and then pushed Internet service providers (ISPs) to enforce their blacklists, Tech Dirt reported.
Using power and influence to keep Americans out of cheaper drug markets
Two such groups include the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP). Both of them feature lots of overlapping membership but having two separate organizations gives the air of more diversity and reach (and thus influence) than there really is. And while there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to make sure that Americans can buy safe drugs online from overseas sellers, the so-called blacklists these groups have assembled cover more than just suspicious sellers; some include sellers of legitimate drugs.
Shadow regulations keep Americans from buying drugs from legitimate sellers overseas who offer them at lower prices. In the coming months and years, ICANN’s domain name registration will further prevent Americans from gaining access to more affordable medications.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is asking ICANN to police the web for such domains and, hopefully, close down domains owned by foreign pharma vendors it doesn’t like (or deny them access to such domains in the first place).
If the group can’t force ICANN to do their bidding, then it plans to use legal and regulatory tools that it already has in place – namely, pressuring online payment providers and advertising services to end their support for any pharma seller the group hasn’t approved.