An interview with Gabriel Levitt of PharmacyChecker.com

PharmacyChecker.com is the leading verification authority for online pharmacies in the United States and Canada. Over the past six years, PharmacyChecker arguably has done more than any other organization to help Americans make safe choices when buying prescription drugs from Canada. Google requires all pharmacies in its ad network to receive PharmacyChecker verification, and eDrugSearch.com requires all member pharmacies to have PharmacyChecker verification as well.

Unfortunately, PharmacyChecker.com has been under attack from Big Pharma and its proxies in recents months. Last year, Big Pharma launched a disinformation campaign, advanced by the NABP and other organizations, to link licensed, legitimate Canadian pharmacies with dangerous rogue pharmacies. This despite the fact that no American has ever been reported injured by a drug purchased from a licensed Canadian pharmacy.

We chatted recently with PharmacyChecker.com Vice President Gabriel Levitt about his organization’s mission, Big Pharma propaganda, and the drug reimportation legislation recently put before Congress.

Q: When and why was PharmacyChecker.com created?

A: PharmacyChecker.com opened its virtual doors in April of 2003 to help Americans identify licensed pharmacies operating online that offered the best prices. The earliest origins of the company began with requests to ConsumerLab.com’s president, Tod Cooperman, M.D., about how to find safe Canadian online pharmacies and Dr. Cooperman’s subsequent decision to start such a service focusing on pharmacies both in and outside the United States.

Q: How did your relationship with Google come about? How does it work?

A: In 2006, the search engines needed a new company to help them qualify and monitor online pharmacies to prevent “rogue” online pharmacies from advertising in their search marketing spaces. PharmacyChecker.com was already involved in precisely these efforts for three years and was the natural company to go with.

Q: In the past year, the pharmaceutical industry, the NABP and others have mounted a campaign to convince people that Canadian pharmacies aren’t safe. What are your thoughts about the industry’s arguments and tactics?

A: These groups have cleverly taken genuine concerns over counterfeiting and unethical pharmacy practices by truly rogue websites and associated those fears with safe, licensed non-U.S. online pharmacies that operate ethically. They do this by publishing “not approved” lists that include safe, Canadian-based online pharmacies AND dangerous, rogue websites, attempting to brand them as one and the same.

With funding by Pfizer, for example, the NABP created such a list of “not approved” pharmacies. The pharmaceutical trade group, PhRMA, created a website that directs people to this list. Other groups that appear to receive funding or revenue from pharmaceutical companies have used similar schemes to brand licensed non-U.S. pharmacies as rogue, illegal, illegitimate, or not approved.

Why are pharmaceutical companies doing this? Most likely because safe, Canadian-based online pharmacies are putting a dent in their profits by allowing Americans to buy their drugs at lower prices.

The fact is that non-U.S. websites that are verified by PharmacyChecker.com require an original prescription, fill orders with licensed pharmacies and meet other important safety standards of online pharmacy practice. These sites help Americans who can’t afford the drug prices here at home. In complete contrast, rogue online pharmacies are dangerous, unethical, and often take advantage of the American consumer. It seems wrong that NABP, the pharmaceutical industry, and related parties are trying to lead Americans to believe that these two very different types of websites are one and the same.

Recently, we have learned that these groups are using similar tactics to scare search engines from permitting low cost pharmacies in Canada and elsewhere from advertising. It seems particularly galling for them to do this now, at a time when millions of Americans are already skipping medication due to cost.

Q: One of the industry’s main arguments against reimportation is that the drugs that licensed Canadian pharmacies sell to Americans do not meet the same safety standards as the drugs sold to Canadians. What is your response to this?

A: Regulated drug products manufactured under Good Manufactured Practices (GMP) and sold in Canada and many other countries are just as safe as those approved in the United States. If the head of the NABP or even the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of American were travelling in Winnipeg and needed medication due to a sudden illness would they trust a Canadian pharmacy? Of course they would. Drug products approved in Canada are just as safe as those in the U.S.

Q: We know that the industry has been planting stories in the news media, including attacks on Google and PharmacyChecker. Are you concerned about these attempts to discredit you? How are you responding to them?

A: Such stories do appear to be stimulated by the pharmaceutical industry or those supported by the industry. While some contain legitimate concerns, they typically build on the strategy of mixing issues, trying to mislead and unnecessarily scare consumers and other parties. On several occasions we have been contacted by journalists who claim that a dangerous drug can be purchased without a prescription from a site approved by us. We have proven this to be incorrect, as in the case above. We are proactive in contacting and correcting those sites that publish incorrect or misleading information.

Q: Do you believe that the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009, allowing American consumers to purchase drugs from Canadian pharmacies, will be made law this year? Why or why not?

A: That bill was voted down in committee. Right now an amendment has passed in the Senate that would help Americans continue to purchase safe medication from Canada, by not allowing newly allocated funds to be used to confiscate such shipments; although confiscations have been rare in recent years anyhow. It’s uncertain if this amendment will become law.

I really don’t know what will happen in Congress but I hope our government doesn’t rely on promises from the pharmaceutical companies about lowering drug prices in the future as a reason to stop Americans from getting their medications now. The recent announcement that pharmaceutical companies will provide a discount to seniors during the “gap” in Medicare Part D drug programs is not much of a concession and of no value to the vast majority of Americans.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?

A: Americans need to be mindful of the intent of pharmaceutical companies to scare them away from lower-cost, licensed pharmacies abroad. They should question information that suggests dangers with such pharmacies and use PharmacyChecker.com’s free verification research and drug price information to help them. Also, our website provides drug price comparisons of non-U.S. pharmacy prices and U.S. pharmacy prices. Americans should know that many generic drugs are cheaper in the United States and should take advantage of those low prices.

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Comments (2)

Regardless of what they say I actually trust any pharmacy that carries this seal. PharmacyChecker only lists pharmacies that provide them with a complete list of strict details each pharmacy needs to meet. Even Google requests any pharmacy to have their seal:

http://www.google.com/adwords/pharmacy_qualification.html

Martin

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