December 15, 2021

Libby Baney and Mike Adelberg Comment on Increase in Illegal Online Pharmacies With Formulary Watch

Government and regulatory affairs partner Libby Baney and Faegre Drinker Consulting Principal Mike Adelberg spoke to Formulary Watch about how the number of online pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs grew during the pandemic as people turned to the internet for health care.

“There has been an increased number of legitimate licenses and compliant telemedicine operations that will connect patients with a doctor,” Baney said. However, the challenge is “patients often don’t know how to distinguish between legitimate online health care and online toll mills that are illegal online pharmacies. The blurring of these lines creates criminal opportunity.”

Adelberg noted that the narrowing of formularies and increased cost-sharing has led some patients to seek alternatives outside the drug benefit. “Some prescribers may want their patients to take a drug that is not on formulary, is on formulary after a large annual deductible or has high coinsurance, but let’s say it’s as high as 50%. The cost of that drug, while it is covered, might put pressure on consumers to go outside of their insurance. Insurance plans do not want that to happen, but they can’t prevent plan members who choose to go outside of their coverage from doing so,” he explained.

Regarding anticipated legislation aimed at addressing counterfeit drugs purchased online, Baney stated, “Social media and online marketplaces require a different policy solution. Some private sector solutions have already come into play. I argue for policy solutions because you don’t have accountability without liability and transparency, and you don’t get [those] from private sector voluntary actions.” She added that there is a need for legislation on social media platforms, including the SHOP SAFE Act, and that there are limitations to the Communications Decency Act.

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