White Plains, New York — February 13, 2013 — A report on drug safety published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) today, funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, identifies important threats to the public health from falsified and substandard drugs sold in the U.S. However, its recommendations regarding the use of online pharmacies ignore critical research, including studies cited in its own report, showing the safety and affordability of personally imported medicine from properly credentialed online pharmacies outside the U.S.
In its report, the IOM writes that "Trustworthy, accredited online drug stores do not sell medicine more cheaply than any other registered pharmacy would. Steep online discounts attract customers, but come from illegitimate vendors." This conclusion is contradicted by a 2012 study led by Roger Bate and published by National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), showing that lower-priced, credentialed online pharmacies sell genuine medication, as well as requiring a valid prescription. In that study, products were ordered from online pharmacies credentialed by PharmacyChecker.com (which credentials foreign and domestic pharmacies), the Canadian International Pharmacy Association CIPA (which credentials Canadian-based pharmacies), and two groups which credential only U.S. pharmacies, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and LegitScript.com. The NBER report showed that the only difference between products received and tested from credentialed foreign and domestic pharmacies was price: Non-U.S. pharmacies sold the same drugs at an average 51% discount.
Despite these facts, the IOM report recommends that Americans rely exclusively on online pharmacies verified by the NABP, failing to note that the NABP's online pharmacy program excludes any online pharmacy based outside the United States, regardless of its credentials. It also ignores potential conflicts for the NABP, which receives funding from pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, in support of NABP's Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program. Tens of millions of Americans forgo taking medication each year due to high domestic prescription costs, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Leading Americans away from safe and affordable online pharmacies, even more will go without needed medication. In fact, a recent study by CVS/Caremark shows that American pharmacists say medication costs are the number one reason Americans do not take their prescribed medication.
"It is sadly ironic that the Institute of Medicine highlights many areas for improvement in the U.S. and global drug supply, yet recommends that consumers not seek safe medication from pharmacies outside the U.S.," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of PharmacyChecker.com. Dr. Cooperman added, "For well over a decade, licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries have safely filled prescriptions ordered online by Americans seeking lower prices. Suggesting that Americans only use pharmacies in the U.S. lacks factual basis and is not in the best interest of public health, which should be main focus of any report from the IOM."
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