Saturday, July 13, 2013

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

A few months ago, we wrote about how Big Pharma -- a collection of the largest pharmaceutical companies -- have 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 pharmaceuticals. 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 and 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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