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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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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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Colchicine prices are a rip off in America: Why? How?

drug-price-ripoffTo treat gouty arthritis, patients have been taking a drug called Colchicine for over 200 years. Apparently, it’s a very helpful drug, but it’s neither new or innovative, to say the least. It’s no longer under patent protection and is available as a generic medication. It’s supposed to be super cheap, right?

So why is the estimated cash price for Colchicine .6mg at Walgreens about $590 for 100 pills?! Even with a Colchicine discount coupon it’s $239.37 – about $2.40 per pill. Compare that with the lowest cost Colchicine sold at a PharmacyChecker-verified international online pharmacy, 41 cents per pill or $41 for 100 pills – about 90% less than the Walgreens retail price! And just to be clear that’s a Canadian pharmacy price.

You can compare Colchicine prices at local U.S. pharmacies and international online pharmacies on PharmacyChecekr.com.com.

Yes, this is an example of drug companies AND U.S. pharmacies having free reign to charge whatever they want. For brand drugs on patent that often leads to exceedingly high prices because the pharmaceutical company has a monopoly: there’s no competition. But for generic drugs there is supposed to be competition to bring down the price. What went wrong with Colchicine? (more…)

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A Great Read for Americans Who Want to Know What the Heck is Going in With Drug Prices!

...about the high cost of meds.

…about the high cost of meds.

For those who want a comprehensive but straightforward explanation about why drug prices are incredibly higher in the U.S. than in other countries, I strongly recommend reading in VOX, “The true story of America’s sky-high prescription drug prices.

Many of you know that in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, government agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies through myriad policy interventions to keep prescription drugs affordable for their citizens. This article explains how that’s done, why it works – but also identifies the tradeoffs where in some cases a new drug is not available outside the U.S. because regulators decide it doesn’t offer additional value over existing drugs.

It also addresses the issue of how research and development to find new drugs may be negatively affected if the U.S. institutes more control over drug prices. Some people argue that broader access to currently available drugs at lower prices means fewer new breakthrough drugs coming to market. [EDIT 12/9/2016: I wanted to make clear that many people do not agree with this position and argue that more drug company profits are spent on marketing and advertising than on research and development and the pharmaceutical industry greatly exaggerates the prospects of less innovation due to drug price controls].

In speaking with lots of people on different sides of the political spectrum and with contrasting governing philosophies — everyone agrees that us Americans are getting a bad deal on drug prices right now. This VOX piece really speaks to the issues at hand, objectively and truthfully, and if you’re interested in “getting it” you should read it.

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Having to Choose Between Food and Medicine in America – a Reminder on Thanksgiving

We The PeopleIt’s a national disgrace that this Thanksgiving Americans will go without medication because prices are too high. First Coast News in Jacksonville, FL, and other ABC local stations, teamed up to report on the continuing crisis of high drug prices. Its opening is chilling: “In living rooms and kitchens across the First Coast, families are choosing between food and vital medicine.”

The report notes that prescription drug spending is much higher in the United States than in other rich countries. Why? “Well, other countries directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of their citizens.” And that explains why Americans are buying medications from outside the U.S., despite the federal restrictions. They are cheaper overseas.

Today I’m not feeling like just slamming Big Pharma and drug companies for their greed. On the heels of this bizarre national election, it’s our elected leaders who need to feel the heat. President Elect Donald Trump states: “Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.” It’s one of the few things that Americans, Right, Left and Center, would agree on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why does my medication purchased internationally look different?

PharmacyChecker AsnwersQuestion: I recently bought some Benicar pills from an international online pharmacy who sourced them from a place in Turkey. The pills did not match up with pills I had on hand from a domestic pharmacy. I don’t know if we should use these blood pressure pills as it seems a little strange that both sourced bills shouldn’t have the same markings.

PharmacyChecker Answers…

For generic drugs, the simple answer is, they look different because they have to. Generic medications must be comparable to a brand name medication in dosage form, strength, route of administration, and intended use. However, whether dispensed domestically or internationally, generic medications often have a different shape, color, or size due to intellectual property (patent and trademark) protections on the brand-name medication. Manufacturers of brand-named medications have certain exclusive rights, such as the unique look of a medication, which may include color, shape or markings.

But what about a brand named medication manufactured in other countries? (more…)

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Is Synthroid in Canada the same as in the U.S.?

synthroid-postSynthroid is the brand name for a medication called levothyroxine, which is manufactured by drug company Abbvie in the U.S. and Mylan in Canada. It treats hypothyroidism, as well as enlarged thyroid gland and thyroid cancer. Synthroid sells for about $100 for a three-month supply in the U.S. compared to $32 in Canada. Over the course of a year, since this is a maintenance medication, the annual costs are $400 vs. $128. You compare Synthroid brand prices here. This is a very popular drug: about 23 million prescriptions are written monthly for Synthroid. For Americans who do not have insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover Synthroid, buying it from Canada means real savings. But will they be getting the exact same drug?

After all, there are generic versions of levothyroxine sold in the U.S. that cost even less than Synthroid in Canada: $10 at Walmart for a three-month supply. For most medications (but there are exceptions) your best bet is the lower cost U.S. generic compared to a higher cost brand drug internationally. In the U.S., the FDA affirms that approved generics are bioequivalent to the brands, meaning the active ingredient has the same rate and extent of absorption in the bloodstream (for all intents and purposes they are the same). But for some medications, especially those with a narrow therapeutic index, your provider may not want you to take a generic.  Medications with a narrow therapeutic index have a narrow range between the drug’s risks and its benefits and small differences in dose or blood concentration may matter, meaning it’s more critical that the amount of pharmaceutical ingredient is precise and delivered correctly through the bloodstream. But what about brand products of the same medication made in different countries? (more…)

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Will Trump Stand up to Big Pharma on Drug Importation to Tackle High Drug Prices?

We The PeopleFor the record, while I supported Obama for president, I was highly critical of the Obama administration for its obscenely cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, one that has led to unprecedented increases in drug prices during his tenure. During his first presidential campaign, President Obama had vowed to stand up to drug companies, and he supported allowing Americans to import medication to find savings in other countries. He ended up making a deal with Big Pharma to help him pass Obamacare, dumping his support for Medicare drug prices negotiations and importation.

Candidate Donald Trump voiced his support for federal drug price negotiations to bring down drug prices under Medicare and allowing consumers access to lower drug prices from overseas. Those are two policies that the pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars defeating over the past decade through large contributions to Democrats and Republican alike in Congress. Of course, Americans can order medications online from foreign countries and import them for personal use, but under the Obama administration it has become more difficult and remains technically illegal.

Mr. Trump states on his website: “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.” During the Republican Primary President-Elect Trump vowed to stand up to the drug companies, mocking the career politicians who take their money and do their bidding in Congress.

From the Right, Americans who hate the heavy hand of big government will laud a President Trump that tells the FDA not to interfere with their freedom to purchase a lower cost medication from Canada or another country. From the Left and in states that border Canada, such as Michigan, Americans would love to see a president who will stand up to the outrageous U.S. pricing policies of multinational pharmaceutical companies by taking actions to expand access lower cost imported medications.

With high drug prices viewed as the #1 healthcare cost concern in the county, ALL AMERICANS WANT TO SEE TRUMP STAND UP TO BIG PHARMA.

Now let’s see if he does.

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