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How Big Pharma’s Shadow Regulation Censors the Internet

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 09:37:41 +0000

In the US most prescription drugs have the highest prices in the world. And get benefits from this state of affairs certainly big pharma, in their interest to leave things as they are. For most Americans the access lower-priced drugs from overseas is unlawful because of such documents as the Prescription Drug Marketing Act and Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act together with the powers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize such drugs at the border.

But in fact, American consumers are allowed to import a 90-day supply of some prescription medications for personal use by bringing them from abroad or ordering and mailing them from overseas, by discretionary guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and enforced by the CBP. So there is a huge market for pharmacies registered outside US such countries as Canada, Australia and Turkey that accept online orders and mail genuine pharmaceuticals to American consumers at much cheaper prices.

Big pharmaceutical companies are not satisfied with this, but they can’t do much more about it as the importation of medications is already technically against law. They can’t do that legally as they can’t get government to regulate the Internet in the way they want. So big parma uses so called Shadow Regulation with Internet intermediaries attempting to quell the supply of prescription drugs to American customers via overseas online pharmacies.

This regime of private censorship in the Internet includes blocking and blacklisting pharmaceutical websites from access to online advertising services, payment services, domain names.

Profile of a Shadow Regulation Network

The Shadow Regulation network includes three key players: the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and LegitScript. The first one is comprised mostly of the pharmaceutical industry, the second one deals with Internet platforms (Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!), delivery providers (UPS), payment processors (PayPal, MasterCard, and American Express), and domain registration companies (GoDaddy and Rightside), and the third one played an important role in organization of both ASOP and CSIP and implements most of the arrangements. An interesting fact that Internet users whose rights they protect are not represented at board level in any of these organizations.

Usually the governments also take part in this Shadow Regulation and here we have the same situation. White House announced the formation of the CSIP on October 14, 2010, after several months of negotiations between the administration and the founding members of CSIP. LegitScript headed by former Associate Deputy Director Office of National Drug Control Policy, and subsists on profitable contracts with the government. So having such framework is very easy to defend the interests of the pharma industry affecting Internet intermediaries.

Internet Blacklists

There are only two registers of online pharmacy websites are approved by both the ASOP and the CSIP. They obey LegitScript and by theNational Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) under the name Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites(VIPPS), and not only exclude sellers of fake and counterfeit drugs from their approved lists but also exclude overseas online pharmacies that supply genuine drugs to Americans under the FDA’s personal use policy. In such a way they prevents American customers from even findingonline pharmacies who can fill prescriptions inaccordance with FDA policy. Such online pharmacies are blocked from access to essential Internet intermediaries such as domain registrars, payment processors and online advertising networks.

Within the framework of this Shadow Regulation regime new top-level domain .pharmacy wasgranted by ICANN to the NABP last year, despite the fact that there was petition from users opposed with almost 25,000 signatures.

The NABP is demanding ICANN force domain registrars to require from any pharmaceutical website a license to distribute medicine to any jurisdiction that it ships to. This demands would wipe online pharmacies off the Internet altogether.

The opinion of of healthcare consumers and Internet users were not taken into account, because it is not profitable for the powerful government and private industry forces. All these measures were taken to favor the private interests of big pharma and to limit access to information and access to safe and affordable medicine.

We can’t deny that fake and substandard medicine sales are a problem that should be regulated by law enforcement agencies. But they should do that legally through cooperative mechanisms that are inclusive, balanced, and accountable.