Despite the U.S. House of Representatives taking the first step in passing a socialized health care system yesterday; pharmaceutical companies will now have a big target on their backs. The current administration deplores profits. In spite of the huge lobbying efforts and and $79.1 million dollar contribution by the pharmaceutical industry, probability is high that this administration will attempt to control drug prices. Failing that, they will consider importing them from the least expensive source. As I point out below this would be a major mistake and must never be allowed to happen.
With thirty-one years of experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry, I’ve grown weary of the constant harangues from the ‘possibly well-meaning’, yet ill-informed, as they continue to demonize the Pharmaceutical Industry.
All links below are worth checking, many come from the DEA and the FDA. Factually, price controls rarely work, having the opposite intended effect on the consumer. Yet we are constantly being told that it would save millions of dollars if the FDA and DEA allowed for the importation, as well as re-importation of pharmaceuticals.
So please allow me to set the record straight:
The current administration, as well as, any progressive administration must have targets to demonize. Currently it’s the Health Insurance Industry; frequently the Pharmaceutical Industry is in their sites.
Many of the illegal online pharmacies are based in foreign countries and promise that their prices are far less than those of American pharmacies. This is true. These companies can often offer up to 80% discounts on many prescription drugs in comparison to a local pharmacy. This is because online pharmacy overhead costs are much less expensive than the traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacy.
These illegal online pharmacies also promise a discreet and convenient way for the customer/patient to purchase medications. So discreet, in fact, that it really seems clandestine or underground. One of the most obvious results of online drug selling is for drug abusers and dealers to have access to a never-ending supply of dangerous prescription drugs. It is also a perfect venue for rogue drug companies to supply expired or counterfeit medications that could be hazardous to one’s health, or even fatal.
According to the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Office of Diversion Control, buying drugs online may be illegal and dangerous. Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances such as narcotic pain relievers, sedatives, stimulants and anabolic steroids without a valid prescription from your doctor.
According to authorities, prescription is the key. It is the documentary proof of a real doctor-patient relationship, which by most state laws requires a physical examination.
Authorities assert that buying drugs online may not only be illegal, but also dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care.
Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law. Drugs that can be ordered online from rogue websites come from foreign countries. Already, this online drug vending and purchasing are illegal. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant.
The inventors of the real drugs receive nothing from those illegal foreign sites and sales. That means eventually it could stifle all innovation since no one does this purely for the sake of humanity.
The only country that has actually developed ‘ important new drugs’ in the last 20 years is the US. That would change dramatically if all profits were squeezed out of that development process in which less than 1% of starting molecules ever make it to commercially available drugs.
The illegal sites also flaunt all rules regarding disclosure of side effects, off-label marketing etc. The re-importation question is essentially a means of cost control, basically telling a company what it can and cannot charge for it’s wares, in this case drugs.
Because Canada dictates what it will pay, and since it is the only payer, it can set the price at whatever it is willing to pay, thus reversing the normal marketplace practice.
William K. Hubbard
Former Senior Associate Commissioner for Policy, Planning, and Legislation
Food and Drug Administration