Business Group Calls on Tech Giant to Cease Censoring Rx Data
“They are doing the bidding of Big Pharma.”
PHILADELPHIA, PA - Business Leaders for Health Care Transformation (BLHCT) on Tuesday called on the Microsoft Corporation’s CEO Satya Nadella to stop doing the bidding of the pharmaceutical industry through Bing’s censorship of valuable information about the safety and cost of prescription drugs.
Microsoft, via the company’s search engine Bing, censors and wrongfully places a warning label on PharmacyChecker.com, a reputable and well-known website that provides critical information for consumers buying prescription drugs from other countries, according to BLHCT.
The business organization sent a letter to Microsoft this week signed by more than 1,100 business owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs and nearly 40 non-profit organizations calling on the tech giant to lift the restrictions.
Organizations that signed the letter include Social Security Works, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Treatment Action Group, Prescription Justice, JustCare USA, the People’s Pharmacy, Unfinished Business Foundation, Hunger Free America, and the American Sustainable Business Council. Notable individual signers include Stephen Salant, Economics Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan; Roger Bate, PhD (formerly of the American Enterprise Institute); and Monique Morrissey, PhD, Economist, Economic Policy Institute.
“The human right to healthcare extends to a person’s access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. We believe that the employer-based health insurance system is fundamentally broken and the cost of pharmaceuticals is a big part of its dysfunction,” stated BLHCT Executive Director Daniel Barlow. “We call on Microsoft to stop colluding with Big Pharma-funded programs that hurt consumers seeking more affordable medicine online and remove those warnings against PharmacyChecker.”
A search for PharmacyChecker on Bing yields a red pop-up warning blocking the user from reaching PharmacyChecker.com and warning, by implication, that PharmacyChecker is dangerous. The program on which Microsoft relies for this warning was launched with a grant from Pfizer to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), an organization that receives considerable funding from pharmaceutical companies for several of its online pharmacy programs and education efforts.
The issue of online access to affordable imported medicines is important in a country where 29% of adults do not fill a prescription as directed because of cost. According to a report of the House Ways and Means Committee, Americans pay almost four times more than other countries for the same drugs.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 20 million Americans say they have imported medicine because of cost. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in June of this year, based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 2.3 million people in the U.S. buy prescription drugs from another country each year to save money. The JAMA study also found that “use of the internet for health information and online pharmacy purchases was associated with medication purchases outside the US.”
“It is no secret that the drug companies are staunchly opposed to drug importation legislation – or any legislation – that will force them to lower drug prices,” said Barlow. “Its efforts to literally scare Americans away from information that can help them fill prescriptions internationally and affordably using verified online pharmacies are particularly unconscionable. Big Tech should not be helping them out here.”
The letter states:
“We do not all believe that having to personally import prescription medicines, using online pharmacies or otherwise, is the best solution for high drug prices in America, but we all recognize that it can be done safely and is a lifeline for many. To that effect, PharmacyChecker plays a valuable role in protecting consumers' safety.
Mr. Nadella, for the sake of public health, free speech, and fairness to American consumers who cannot afford their medications, take down the censorious warning on Bing against PharmacyChecker.com.”
Business Leaders for Health Care Transformation is a coalition of business leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and concerned citizens who believe that the employer-based health insurance system is fundamentally broken and hinders American competitiveness. The organization has more than 3,200 members across the country. To learn more, visit www.blhct.org