The president of LegitScript recently authored an inaccurate and misleading critique of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) that was clearly intended to smear our reputation with a broad brush dipped in inaccuracies and scare tactics.
This response paints the true picture of who we are and the benefits CIPA Members offer U.S. consumers.
CIPA Members Have A 100% Perfect Safety Record
Since its founding in 2002, the members of CIPA have maintained a 100% perfect safety record.
Yes, you read that correctly — a 100% perfect safety record. Serving millions of Americans. For 15 years.
So, given our perfect safety record for well over a decade, we rhetorically ask: "where is the problem, LegitScript?!"
CIPA customers can obtain a personal supply of pharmaceuticals and maintenance medications made by the leading brand-name manufacturers, at prices 50% – 80% less than U.S. pharmacies.
(Ahhh...there's the problem: Our prices allow profit for the manufacturer, but don't gouge the consumer to the point of absurdity, as in the U.S.!)
Top prescription drugs purchased through CIPA members include: daily medications prescribed to prevent blood clots after a heart attack; to reduce cholesterol; to treat depression; and for the treatment of diabetes. CIPA members do not sell controlled substances, narcotics or pseudoephedrine products. Any issues or concerns raised about the sale of controlled substances to customers in the U.S. — such as Google's non-prosecution settlement a few years ago — do not pertain to CIPA and do not involve any of our members, despite LegitScript's best efforts to suggest otherwise.
In addition to dispensing medications from licenced pharmacies in Canada, CIPA members have relationships with regulated international pharmacies and inspected fulfillment centers that directly deliver medications to patients. A look at the FAQ section on our website shows that — despite what LegitScript says — CIPA members are fully transparent about the international component of their businesses. In short, customers are clearly informed where their medication comes from — on the CIPA website, and during ordering and with follow-up communication from the CIPA member. (A former CIPA member wasn't transparent — cause for expulsion from our organization. But he's actually been gone for a decade, and we've had zero contact with him in 10 years.)
Our 100% safety record is the result of the stringent standards observed by all CIPA members to ensure patient safety, including:
LegitScript's False and Misleading Accusations
There are many unlicensed and illegitimate "rogue" pharmacies on the Internet, yet despite CIPA's strict safety procedures and 100% perfect safety record, Legitscript is trying to falsely paint us into the "rogues" corner of the web.
It is readily apparent that LegitScript does not like how CIPA and the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF") are collectively shining a spotlight on the U.S. pharmaceutical industry's coordinated campaign to eliminate threats to their predatory pricing model. This is what appears to have motivated LegitScript to campaign to suppress consumer choice and competition under the false pretense of protecting consumers.
The truth is that CIPA and EFF are not perfectly aligned, and do not march in lockstep. But we do share concerns about private interests promulgating standards for key Internet intermediaries designed to serve their own financial interests far more than those of Internet users with health care needs. In that spirit, Mr. Jeremy Malcom of EFF made a recent presentation on "Shadow Regulation" to CIPA members at our Annual General Meeting.
Furthermore, despite LegitScript's attempt to blur the lines, CIPA and its members are not involved in the wholesale dispensing business. In past years, a few owners did have separate businesses — outside of their CIPA membership — that were involved in wholesale distribution. These outdated wholesale activities — dating from 2007-2012 — occasionally show-up in the news today, making them seem recent. However, those separate business entities (eliminated between 5 and 10 years ago) are not only long gone, they were never CIPA members to begin with! To be clear, there are no CIPA members engaged in wholesale activities today.
Looking Inside the U.S. Pharmacy System
While LegitScript hurls unfounded accusations at CIPA, they should take a second look closer to home at the U.S. pharmacies that it claims are "legitimate" and the pharmaceutical companies that are funding the misleading campaigns spearheaded by Legitscript and its affiliates.
Look at CVS, one of the largest members of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy ("NABP"), an avid supporter of Legitscript. In May 2008, CVS paid $36.7 million to settle allegations they defrauded the U.S. government by improperly switching patients taking generic Zantac to capsules from the tablet form of the heartburn drug (for patients covered by Medicaid, the capsules can cost 4 times as much as the tablets).
In 2015, CVS was fined $22 million by the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") after admitting that its pharmacists knowingly filled thousands of illegitimate prescriptions for pain killers, mostly oxycodone, in Florida. According to the DEA, the 2 CVS locations involved in the violations were ordering 1 million to 2 million oxycodone pills a year, which is 27 times the national average. Apparently no one at corporate headquarters saw a red flag.
And just last June, the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts announced that CVS had agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine to resolve allegations that 50 of its stores violated the Controlled Substances Act by filling forged prescriptions for controlled substances — mostly addictive painkillers — more than 500 times between 2011 and 2014. The U.S. Attorney's press release noted, "This case was brought as part of the federal response to New England's opioid crisis"; a crisis that is now taking the lives of more U.S. citizens annually than traffic fatalities!
What is the sensible response?
Legitscript states with respect to CVS.com that it "has reviewed this website and determined that it meets standards for Internet pharmacy safety and legality." It is neither "safe" nor "legal" to knowingly fill fake prescriptions for millions of doses of highly addictive drugs.
The list of major Big Pharma violations is also a long one. According to a March 2016 study released by Public Citizen — "Twenty-Five Years of Pharmaceutical Industry Criminal and Civil Penalties: 1991 Through 2015" — a total of 373 settlements were reached between the federal and state governments and pharmaceutical manufacturers, for a total of $35.7 billion, during this time period. Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly alone each paid over $1 billion for repeat settlements according to the study, and are members along with Legitscript in associations that seek to eliminate competition from international online pharmacy websites.
These are only some of many examples of how LegitScript remains conspicuously silent within the U.S. pharmacy and pharmaceutical industries that it supports.
The True Picture of CIPA
We cannot allow LegitScript to paint us with the same brush as the "rogue" Internet pharmacies. Here is the true picture of CIPA members: Our business model is sound and we are legitimate. We are fully transparent in who we are, and how we operate. And most importantly, we are providing a desperately needed avenue for U.S. consumers — often the elderly on fixed incomes — to access the medications they need safely, at affordable prices. It's a noble endeavor, and as long as the U.S. pharmaceutical industry continues to price medications out of the reach of those in need, our members will be here to provide consumers with much needed pricing relief.
By Tim Smith, General Manager
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