Conspiracy Among Pharma Front Groups Alleged in Suit Filed by PharmacyChecker.com
White Plains, NY – August 14th, 2019
Brand name medicines often cost 80 to 90 percent less from licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries than from pharmacies in the U.S. But, according to a lawsuit filed today by PharmacyChecker.com in the Southern District Court of New York, a conspiracy involving front groups for Big Pharma is keeping these lower priced drugs out of reach of millions of Americans.
“We have fought Pharma rhetoric for many years. But now we need the courts to fight what we see as an underhanded flow of misinformation distorting online search results, denying Americans information to safely access affordable medicine,” said Tod Cooperman, M.D., founder and CEO of PharmacyChecker.com, which verifies international online pharmacies and compares their drug prices. “As prescription drug prices continue to soar in the U.S., the whole country should be watching this case because it affects everyone.”
The suit (Case 7:19-cv-07577) alleges that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), LegitScript, and three Pharma front groups are operating a coordinated campaign to suppress market competition, artificially inflate the price of prescription drugs, and spread misinformation to scare consumers away from international online pharmacies. As part of this, they have targeted PharmacyChecker.com, which operates a rigorous online pharmacy verification program that helps consumers identify accredited online pharmacies, including those in Canada, and provides comparisons of their drug prices.
For example, a month’s supply of the diabetes medication, Januvia, costs around $479 in the U.S. but, as shown on PharmacyChecker.com, only $114 from a Canadian pharmacy and as little as $25 from licensed pharmacies in other countries. Online pharmacies accredited through the PharmacyChecker Verification Program process prescription drug orders that are filled by licensed pharmacies that require a valid prescription and do not sell controlled drugs into the United States.
A hub of the alleged conspiracy is a blacklist – the “Not Recommended Sites” list – created by the NABP with a grant from Pfizer. NABP claims that sites on this blacklist put “you and your family at risk” and it warns consumers to “Avoid These Websites.” However, in addition to listing dangerous, rogue pharmacy sites, the NABP list includes dozens of sites that PharmacyChecker has found to be safe international online pharmacies.
The suit alleges that the NABP, working through a co-conspirator, the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), succeeded in convincing Internet search giants Google and Bing to penalize “Not Recommended Sites” in their search results. Two co-defendants had a foundational role in establishing CSIP’s work: LegitScript (a competitor of PharmacyChecker.com that does not accredit pharmacies that ship to Americans from abroad) and the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), an organization founded with money from LegitScript, the drug company Eli Lilly, and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The other named co-conspirator, The Partnership for Safe Medicines, is a listed observer to ASOP, has deep ties to Big Pharma, and has orchestrated a wide-reaching campaign against foreign drug imports, including misinformation about PharmacyChecker.com.
In December of 2018, the NABP added PharmacyChecker.com to its blacklist, despite the fact that PharmacyChecker.com is not a pharmacy, not involved in selling medicine, is purely informational, operates lawfully, and poses no risks. The NABP even added PharmacyChecker.com’s news blog site (www.pharmacycheckerblog.com) to the blacklist. The results attributed to this blacklisting in the suit have been devastating for PharmacyChecker and those seeking information about safe and affordable medicine. For example, the top results for “online pharmacies” in Google search previously included a link to PharmacyChecker.com’s directory of accredited online pharmacies. But those results have been moved many pages down, virtually out-of-sight. On July 21, 2019, a WARNING box started appearing when users clicked search results for PharmacyChecker on Microsoft’s Bing, denying the link and directing users instead to information from the NABP, CSIP, and LegitScript, three of the co-conspirators in the suit.
PharmacyChecker.com is requesting a preliminary injunction requiring that its website and blog site be immediately removed from the NABP’s “Not Recommended List” and requiring CSIP’s members, including Google, Microsoft, and other internet gatekeepers, to reverse their censoring.
“For over 15 years, we have helped inform consumers of the option to buy their drugs at lower cost from safe pharmacies outside the U.S. and believe we have been targeted as a result,” said Gabriel Levitt, president of PharmacyChecker.com. “We trust this suit will bring justice and restore competition that makes drugs more affordable.”
PharmacyChecker.com is represented in the suit by Aaron Gott and Alex Shear of Bona Law PC, an antitrust law firm with offices in San Diego and New York.
Press Contact: Lucia Mueller, Director of Communications for PharmacyChecker.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | (718) 554-3067
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PharmacyChecker.com, a private company based in New York, is the only independent company that verifies the credentials of and accredits international online pharmacies, publishing a list of accredited online pharmacies and drug price comparisons based on those pharmacies. It also offers a pharmacy discount card to lower costs at pharmacies in the U.S. PharmacyChecker accreditation and price comparisons have been recommended and/or referenced by AARP Magazine, the New York Times, the People’s Pharmacy, Yahoo Finance, and others.