The drug industry worked with the Obama administration to sow safety fears about cheaper medications from foreign sources.
Millions of Americans pinched by high drug prices turn to overseas Internet pharmacies each year. An array of groups funded by the pharmaceutical industry seeks to steer people away from the money-saving option, citing safety concerns that advocates say are largely unfounded.
For years, drug companies have opposed efforts to make it easier for Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs for personal use. Doing so is, in fact, illegal, though the U.S. government does not prosecute individual buyers using the medicines for personal use. The Food and Drug Administration maintains that drugs obtained from foreign sources can be dangerous.
What is striking is the extent to which the industry is winning the battle to limit the online marketplace, including legitimate international pharmacies, under the guise of promoting safety—and, as Tarbell has found, with government help.
According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and provided to Tarbell, much of the current constellation of online pharmacy watchdogs was created in 2009 and 2010 by the pharmaceutical industry and advanced, in part, through the White House.