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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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CEO of PharmacyChecker On People’s Pharmacy Radio Talking Safety and Savings on Narrow Therapeutic Index Drugs

Tod Cooperman, MD CEO of PharmacyChecker.com

Joe and Terry Graedon have been helping Americans make better health decisions for the last 40 years, including through their syndicated radio show on National Public Radio called The People’s Pharmacy. As you can imagine, their listeners are interested in prescription drug safety and savings. Our CEO was on their show this past Saturday and I’d like to tell you about it, especially if you want to learn how to save money on brand name drugs.

The CEO of PharmacyChecker.com, Tod Cooperman, MD, is also the founder and president of ConsumerLab.com, the leading evaluator of health and wellness products. ConsuemrLab.com has worked with The People’s Pharmacy in the past to test prescription medications. While I believe that generics sold in the U.S. are usually of the highest quality, equal to or better than generics in most other countries, ConsumerLab.com’s findings show that some generic medications in the U.S. are not always equal to the brand. Due to his expertise is drug quality and his knowledge about drug prices, The People’s Pharmacy brought Dr. Cooperman on to their show last week to talk about Narrow Therapeutic Index (NTI) drugs. Listen to the show! (See minutes 6:50-18:00).

For NTI medications, it’s even more important that the active pharmaceutical ingredient is present in the exact amount required. When NTI medications have too much of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, it can be toxic; but those that have too little may not be adequately efficacious. Most NTI drugs are available in generic form, which usually means they are low cost, even without insurance, and usually lower-priced than in Canada and other countries, too! The opposite holds true for brands.

Some providers are deciding that it’s important for their patients stick with the brand for NTI drugs for the reasons stated above.  But the prices here are often too high. In the radio show, Dr. Cooperman recommends looking internationally for those who can’t afford the brand locally. Americans can often find discounts averaging 80% internationally on Brand name NTI drugs. Last summer, when we read The Graedon’s Guide to Saving Money on Medicines, we noticed the list of NTI drugs and wanted to compare drug prices domestically and internationally. Our research from Fall 2016 is below.

Narrow Therapeutic Index (NTI) Drugs: Brand Name Price Comparison (U.S., Canada, International*)

Per Pill Cost[i] Potential Savings
Medication Name: Brand (Generic) Strength U.S[ii] Canada[iii] NZ/UK[iv] Canada Other Int’l Overall
Tegretol (Carbamazepine) 200mg $2.87 $0.77 $0.57 73% 80% 80%
Cleocin HCl (Clindamycin) [v] 300mg caps $24.00 $3.38  NA 86% NA 86%
Catapres (Clonidine HCl) 0.1mg $3.34 $0.45  NA 86% NA 86%
Sandimmune (Cyclosporine) 100mg /mL  50mL $664.84 $327.98  NA 51% NA 51%
Lanoxin (Digoxin)[vi] 0.125mg $12.54 $0.75  NA 94% NA 94%
Depakote (Divalproex)[vii] 250mg $5.73 $0.90  NA 84% NA 84%
Zarontin (Ethosuximide) 250mg $4.51 $0.66  NA 85% NA 85%
Synthroid (Levothyroxine) 100 mcg (0.1mg) $1.87 $0.35 $0.63 81% 66% 81%
Dilantin (Phenytoin) 100mg $1.45 $0.33 $0.48 77% 67% 77%
Depakene (Valproic acid) 250mg $5.76 $0.93  NA 84% NA 84%
Coumadin (Warfarin) 5mg $3.69 $0.60 NA 84% NA 84%
 Average Savings 81%

[i] Based on three month supply of medication.

[ii] Walgreens, NYC, December 2016

[iii] Prices of international online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com.

[iv] Prices of international online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com.

[v] Marketed as Dalacin C in Canad

[vi] Marketed as Toloxin in Canada

[vii] Marketed as Epival in Canada

 

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Drug Company Patient Assistance Program Information Can be Found on PharmacyChecker.com

Can Big Pharma Help Me Afford My Meds?

People who are not new to this blog know that we are often critical of the pharmaceutical industry because of their actions to stop Americans from buying lower cost medications from international online pharmacies. So, this may come as a surprise…

Today, we announced that we have added a new section on PharmacyChecker.com for consumers to search, find and apply to patient assistance programs, those sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. You can type in the name of your medication and review a very comprehensive collection of these programs, including low-cost, no-cost, and copay programs. The eligibility hurdles are often prohibitive: so please understand that for many programs, if you’re currently earning above the median income in the U.S. it’s likely that you are too rich. (more…)

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PhRMA Wants to Share the Blame of High Drug Prices with the Whole Supply Chain

Don’t blame poor little Big Pharma

Big Pharma is in the mood to share! A new report commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade association representing the world’s largest global pharmaceutical companies, seems to assert that the blame for high drug prices should be shared with pharmacy benefit managers, retail pharmacies, wholesalers, and, I think, even hospitals – and more. It appears that PhRMA’s main target is the pharmaceutical benefit managers.

Noting that President Donald Trump recently said drug companies are “getting away with murder” – I view this report as pharma’s attempt to communicate, “hey, prez, we’re not alone here in being greedy.” The report has merit, which I’ll explain below when looking at the dollar numbers. But as far as the American consumer is concerned: murder is murder. Hey, I’m just using the president’s words. Due to the killing made by pharma and friends (because they’re all friends), 10s of millions of Americans are leaving their scripts unfilled because the prices, one way or the other, are out of reach.

The report is called “The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: Gross Drug Expenditures Realized by Stakeholders.” You can find a summary of it here but this is my take on it. (more…)

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Medication Safety is a Weak Argument Against Allowing Personal Prescription Importation

In this blog post I’m going to get personal. Not about me but about importing medication from Canada and other countries. You’ll see what I mean. Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the budget bill, which would have paved the way for future deficit neutral spending to implement new regulations expanding lawful access to lower cost imported medication from wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated 52-46.

Let’s forget about the fact that drug companies give members of Congress lots of money. OK, I can’t forget: it’s about two billion dollars over the last 15 years. Some senators who voted against the amendment cited their concerns with safety as a basis for their vote. Let me explain why they are wrong, at least when it comes to personal vs. wholesale drug importation. (more…)

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PharmacyCheckerBlog Wins Award for Top 50 in Covering Pharma by Feedspot

PharmacyCheckerBlog.com Awarded Top 50 Pharma Blog Award

PharmacyCheckerBlog was bestowed an award by Feedspot as one of the top 50 blogs covering pharma! Over the past seven years, our blog has covered a variety of areas related to prescription drug prices, safety, policy, and politics. But our blog’s focus is telling Americans the truth about savings and safety related to buying medications from online pharmacies and personal drug importation, and standing up the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to mislead the American people on these issues. (more…)

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Generic Truvada Purchased Online Helps Reduce HIV Infections Among At-Risk Communities in London

Truvada - HIV PrEP Medication

In case you didn’t know, PharmacyChecker is based in New York. We are a proud American company, one that has helped millions of Americans for well over a decade get the information they need to save money safely if choosing to buy lower cost, imported medication online. While my focus is often the American consumer, I’m very much concerned with medicine access needs globally, too.

The fact is that online access to affordable medication is helping consumers throughout the world. We’re going to look at one very interesting and uplifting example from the United Kingdom, where people in at-risk communities are saving themselves from contracting HIV through the safe purchase of medication over the Internet and importing it for personal use.

The title of an article in the New Scientist pinpoints the gist of what’s going on: “Massive drop in HIV rates may be due to Internet Drugs.” In late 2016, four health clinics in London saw a dramatic drop in new HIV infections of 40% among gay men over a 12-month period. That period corresponded with the launch of I Want PrEP Now (https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/), a non-profit initiative that helps people safely buy generic Truvada online. While it’s possible that other factors are at play, public health experts attributed the drop in new HIV infections to the ability of people to obtain generic Truvada affordably through the Internet. I cannot vouch for the online pharmacies recommended through I Want PrEP because we have not verified them in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, but read on to see amazing evidence of the safety and efficacy of the medications ordered. (more…)

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Would Big Pharma Create Fake News to Scare Americans Away from Online Pharmacies Abroad?

It’s time to get real

In 2005, as reported here, an executive from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA or Big Pharma), agreed to commission, to the tune of $300,000, the writing of a fictional novel in which Muslim terrorists poison prescription drugs in Canada to kill Americans who – seeking affordable medication –  buy drugs from Canada. The deal with the publisher didn’t work out. As the authors tell it, PhRMA offered money to shut them up but they said no. They instead wrote a book about a pharmaceutical company who poisoned Canadian drugs and made it look like Muslim terrorists did it. Nope, I couldn’t make this up. That book – The Karasik Conspiracy – is available on Amazon.

Fake news is in the news a lot lately! Like fake news, efforts to dissuade Americans from obtaining safe lower cost medication through personal drug importation can have dangerous consequences: people scared away from safe medication they can afford. There are – in fact –  very safe international online pharmacies and dangerous rogue pharmacy sites. Stick to the former avoid the latter. There are tens of millions of Americans not taking medications because of cost — so it’s time to get real.  (more…)

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Nineteen million Americans Have Imported Medication for Personal Use to Pay Less and Happy New Year

New Year's Eve Times Square CrowdAs we close out 2016, I’m not surprised to be reporting and commenting on new survey data by the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that 19 million Americans have purchased and imported lower cost medication from Canada and other countries. I suspect the number is higher and I’m sure it’s not high enough, as I’ll discuss at the conclusion of this post.

First, as reported in Kaiser Health News: “As drug prices have spiraled upward in the past decade, tens of millions of generally law-abiding Americans have committed an illegal act in response: They have bought prescriptions outside the U.S. and imported them.” The Kaiser story also reports that many such purchases are made online and while the FDA warns that many online pharmacies are not safe, “…many medicines purchased from another country are the same as the ones patients buy in the U.S.” That’s all true. The key to safety when buying medications internationally is only purchasing from properly verified websites, ones approved by PharmacyChecker.

Just to recap why importation is a lifeline, let’s look at some highlights from recent data. (more…)

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Medications Dropped by PBMs in 2017 Are More Affordable Internationally at a Quarter the Price

How would you feel if the cost for your brand name drug went up from a copayment of $44 to a cash price of $614 for a three-month supply ($6.82 a pill) when you went in to fill your script in 2017? If you take brand name Crestor 10mg then that may happen to you if you’re signed up with CVS Caremark, which is dropping that drug in 2017. In fact, large PBMs, such as CVS Caremark and Express Scripts are dropping lots of medications from their formularies in 2017. What’s insane is that brand name Crestor 10mg from the lowest cost international online pharmacy verified by PharmacyChecker is 29 cents a pill or $26 for a 90 day supply, dispensed from Turkey. If you prefer to buy it from Canada, it will cost a low of about $2.85 per pill, much more than Turkey but still almost 60% less than in the U.S.

We looked at 15 brand name medications that will no longer be available on some PBM formularies in 2017 and found that the maximum savings average is 74% if you purchase the medication from a PharmacyChecker-verified international online pharmacy compared to the lowest cost U.S. pharmacy options. For more on this price analysis check out today’s news release.

Most Americans have insurance, about 90%, which is a record high. No, I’m not getting into a discussion about the successes and failures of Obamacare, but you should know that just because you’re insured doesn’t mean you can afford medication. Looking at Kaiser Family Foundation data, about 41% of underinsured Americans between 18-64 don’t fill a prescription because of cost. That’s about 16.5 million (too many) people.

Lest you forget, for many of these dropped drugs, the generic is often available in the U.S. at lower cost than the brand name from an international online pharmacy. But not with Crestor. The generic of Crestor, Rosuvastatin, can be purchased at your local pharmacy, with the lowest prices ranging from $35-50 for a 3-month supply, which is more (but still comparable) to the lowest international, online cost of brand name Crestor.

Happy Holidays from PharmacyChecker!

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People’s Pharmacy Talks About Huge Savings on Narrow Therapeutic Index Drugs from Canada

People's Pharmacy on NTI Drug Savings in Canada

People’s Pharmacy on NTI Drug Savings in Canada

This past summer we wrote about The Graedon’s Guide to Saving Money on Medicine, by the People’s Pharmacy, as a very worthwhile read. One of its sections talked about Narrow Therapeutic Index drugs for which generics are usually low cost and available in the U.S. but for some patients only the brand works: and the brands are very expensive. NTI drugs are those for which the precision of a medication’s dosage is of even greater importance than for most medications. Often these drugs are measured in micrograms not milligrams.

In its Guide, the People’s Pharmacy mentioned several popular medications that fall into the NTI category. We researched their prices and found medications on which Canadian online pharmacies offer spectacular savings, often 80%. They wrote about some of our findings in an article this week called: Can you trust Canadian online pharmacies?

As we’ve written before, many Canadian online pharmacies are really international online pharmacies because for years they’ve been partnering with pharmacies in other countries not just filling orders from Canada. But what was interesting about our data on the NTI drugs is that most of the lowest prices were in fact in Canada, not international pharmacies elsewhere.

Expect more in the New Year on how to get to the brand name drug you want at a price you can afford – including a deeper discussion on Narrow Therapeutic Index Drugs.

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