With drug prices in the spotlight of our national healthcare debate, one could certainly view Amazon’s entry last year into the pharmacy space as a welcome development. After all, when it comes to upending traditional business models by undercutting their prices, Amazon is king. For Americans, the tens of millions who don’t fill prescriptions each year because of cost, relief can’t come soon enough. For Amazon to succeed, Jeff Bezos should consider teaming up with Senator Bernie Sanders. Amazon’s support for The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—to allow for the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs—would be the game changer that would have American patients cheering and the pharmaceutical industry crying.
Recent bi-partisan efforts
to bring lower-cost generic drugs to market faster are a great step in
the right direction, but they don’t infuse our captive pharmaceutical
marketplace with competition to lower prices on patented – brand name –
prescription drugs. Importation would fuel that competition. An unlikely
alliance between our country’s most successful capitalist and
trailblazing, Democratic Socialist is what we need!
Activists with diabetes, organized through advocacy group T1International, are trekking or “caravanning” to Canada to buy lower cost insulin. Why wouldn’t they? According to reporting in the Washington Post, they ended up paying $1,200 for products that would have cost $12,000 in the United States. One vial of Humalog in the U.S. can cost $300 compared to $30 in Canada.
According to the Post, the activists “see buying in Canada as a short-term emergency measure and a way to call attention to U.S. pricing — not the answer.”
I fully agree that personal imports of more affordable medicine are an emergency measure, and I’d be happy if it were a short-term one. A recent T1International survey found that 26% of Americans who take insulin rationed their medication at least once last year because of cost. That’s higher than the worldwide rate of 18%. People with diabetes should not be forced to travel to Canada to get affordable insulin when it can be mailed.
This week, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed into a law HB 19 to create a state prescription drug importation program. The goal is to lower the state’s prescription drug bill and the prices Florida residents pay at pharmacy counters by importing lower-cost medicines from Canada and other countries that have similarly strict pharmaceutical regulatory standards.
The main point of this blog post is to state that this law in Florida, much like the laws that have passed in Vermont and Colorado, create WHOLESALE not PERSONAL drug importation programs.
I’ve recently been exercising bragging rights about our new and improved drug price comparisons. Americans seeking medicine from Canada and other countries are finding better deals on generics right here at home. But the crisis of high drug prices in the U.S. persists when it comes to brand medications. Recent price research by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that brand name drug prices have increased by 76% over just the past six years.
This week, PharmacyChecker released new price analysis
savings for 10 popular patented drugs, comparing U.S. discounted medication
prices with those available at accredited international online pharmacies. The
average discount from Canadian pharmacies is 75%. If ordering from farther abroad,
“Dispense as Written” are the words found on prescriptions in the U.S. when the prescriber wants the patient to take the brand drug, not the generic. Many who read Katherine Eban’s new book – Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom – will conclude that they would like to see “DAW” on their prescriptions.
Bottle of Lies teaches its readers that generic drugs are not as good as the FDA claims. It shows that poor manufacturing practices, mostly in India and China, but also in the U.S., are the leading cause of substandard drugs being sold in U.S. pharmacies and throughout the world. More ominously, India and China intentionally ship even lower quality and, in some cases, worthless drugs to poor countries in Africa and Southeast Asia where regulations are weak or non-existent.
That’s right, folks. There’s no need to buy online and import from Canada, or even from India, to save money when it comes to most commonly dispensed generic drugs.
researched prices of the 40 most commonly dispensed generic drugs in the
U.S. to compare them to ones offered at accredited pharmacies in Canada. Four
of the generics are controlled drugs, which are not available to U.S. consumers
from PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacies; and two of
them are not available in Canada. Out of
the 34 drugs we compared prices on, 88% were cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada
and at an average savings of 68%.