Understanding ‘Legitimate’ Online Pharmacies


“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the gold standard when it comes to regulating the safety of American medicine supply. Medicines that enter the United States through importation will not be subject to these same strong standards and, as a result, fake, inadequate or redirected, repackaged and debased medications could be introduced into our secure drug supply chain.”

Understanding ‘Legitimate’ Online Pharmacies

Pay attention to these words like counterfeit, substandard, repackaged and adulterated drugs. While we agree that counterfeit, substandard and adulterated drugs are life threatening what we can’t fathom is that the FDA also brings repackaged drugs in the same sentence. Pharmaceutical companies collaborate with FDA compliant re-packers because there are some positives that work in the favor of the businesses and patients. It is safe to conclude that repackaged drugs need not be fake or illegitimate. Let us move onto the next important word i.e. diverted.

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In Europe, drugs are sold between countries like Germany and Spain. Pfizer, sells approximately 10k pills of Eliquis to a wholesale pharmacy based in Madrid for $15k but it does not want this Madrid based wholesaler to sell it to a counterpart in Munich for $17k because Pfizer can sell this to the wholesaler in Munich for far more. Now that does not make the drug Eliquis unsafe does it?

Legitimate online pharmacies generally accept orders accompanied by valid prescriptions and dispense the drugs under supervision of licensed pharmacist. These mail order pharmacies serve mostly those customers who cannot afford to pay the exorbitant drug prices in their home country.

Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have invested millions of dollars in campaigns and organizations to mould the chosen narrative of what a ‘genuine’ online pharmacy means. There are numerous instances where antitrust lawsuits have been filed against some of those pharmaceutical companies that possess data that prove that they went that far. The narrative in question is – any non US internet based pharmacy that fulfills an order from USA is fake.

The pharmaceutical giants have been successful up to a certain extent. They have managed to create fear and confusion among buyers and as a result the buyers have become skeptical about buying legal and original drugs from genuine online pharmacies. On the contrary, these campaigns and efforts by pharma giants have created opportunities for illegitimate online pharmacies to benefit from all the fear and commotion online.

A research was financed by a US based enterprise that brought to light a recent effort by Bing search engine wherein the search engine used a list crated by NABP called ‘Unsafe’. The search engine then started displaying a pop next to search results terming all sites featuring in the list as unsafe. Among them were some very safe and reputed Canadian pharmacies including but not limited to Canada Prescriptions Plus, Medications Canada and Doctor Solve. The research clearly pointed out that because the unsafe pop up showed up on both safe and unsafe pharmacies, searchers were more likely to choose the illegitimate pharmacies because they sell drugs at prices that are too good to be true. The highlight of this research was that this effort was funded by none other than Pfizer, a large pharma company.

The NABP’s efforts work synchronously with another organization that goes by the name LegitScript in influencing the unsafe narrative of legitimate pharmacies. These efforts create doubt and fear among buyers who are often looking for cheaper alternatives in Canada and are satisfied with Canada prescription prices. It is not clear if the organization LegitScript is financed by pharma giants but we do know that is definitely not a not-for-profit organization. What we do know is that the founder of LegitScript was a key figure in developing the legal narrative for phar giants by financing and heading the Alliance of Safe Online Pharmacies which invests large portion of its time lobbying against drug importation.

The pharmaceutical industry wants the law to reflect as closely as possible its understanding of “drug diversion,” which are any sales that appear to undermine its profit model. So, referring to diverted products as “illegitimate” in the DSCSA gives Big Pharma the public relations and lobbying ability to lump “diverted” products in with “counterfeit” drugs. I’ll let Big Pharma speak for itself – Levitt, President