With all the hoopla over the current health care reform legislation (H.R. 3200), it's easy to miss other bills currently being considered. For example, the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009 (H.R. 1298).
At first glance, H.R.1298 seems pretty straightforward stuff, saying that pharmaceutical companies can't sell different versions of drugs to other countries and securing the rights of people to purchase drugs sold in other countries.
But wait! Dig deeper. H.R.1298 also seeks to control the purchase of drugs through the Internet, not only purchase through American Internet pharmacies, but also purchase from foreign Internet pharmacies. This means your savvy grandma who used to order low-cost generic drugs from other countries could no longer do so.
The bill controls Internet drug purchases two ways. First, it makes it an offense for a pharmacist to sell you medications unless his website meets a bunch of design requirements and the MD, PA, or NP who gave you the prescription conducted a face-to-face medical evaluation. Second, it prohibits payments to "unregistered" foreign pharmacies.
That's right. This isn't regulation of businesses for the protection of consumers, it's the regulation of consumers. Think about it. You want to send someone money. Nope, that's against the law. Use PayPal on the wrong Internet site, and the Feds will be showing up at your door.
Proponents of the bill will say that outlawing purchases from overseas will protect consumers from themselves. But that is exactly the sort of protection we do not need. At the current time, protected substances are already illegal without a valid prescription. So what real benefit is there to adding laws against making payments?
Cui bono? Who benefits from banning payments to foreign pharmacies? Well, US pharmacies of course. Yes, this is a law passed for (1) the commercial benefit of pharmaceuticals and (2) the psychological benefit of those who see more control as a comfort.
Write your House Representative today and ask him to oppose H.R. 1298. You can also write your Senator, as the bill is in the Senate as well, as S.525 & S.1232.