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Diabetics Out in Full Force to Rock the Big Pharma Boat – #insulin4all

There is profound frustration and anger reverberating throughout the diabetic community due to the skyrocketing prices of insulin in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi are charging out-of-reach prices for insulin medications necessary for diabetics’ survival.

On September 9th, 2017, over forty people gathered outside of Eli Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis to make a statement on behalf of American citizens living with diabetes and, in actuality, all Americans who face the highest drug prices in the world.

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Topical Pain Medications Much Cheaper Outside the US

When it comes to the topic of pain medication these days, we usually read about prescription opioid abuse, which tragically claims tens of thousands of lives each year. According to a recent article in the New York Times, while the landscape of dangers is different, we should also be concerned about every day, over-the-counter pain medication. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are common pain relievers you may keep around the house to relieve an occasional headache, toothache or post-workout soreness. They are also used to treat fever, arthritis, menstrual pain, migraines and inflammation. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are among the over-the-counter NSAIDs you’re probably most familiar with.

Particularly for those with a history of coronary artery disease, NSAIDs can cause serious health issues because they can clog your blood vessels. For others, NSAIDs can do harm to your digestive tracts. Other side effects, according to the article, include, “ulcers, bleeding, kidney failure and, in rare cases, liver failure.”

It appears that topical formulations, such as ointments, perhaps have minimal or fewer side effects. Here’s the rub…(pun absolutely intended)

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New Analysis Shows Almost Six Million Americans 65 and Older Skip Meds Annually Due to Cost

At the beginning of this year, Prescription Justice, the non-profit organization I founded, released an analysis showing that about 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription in 2016 due to cost. We derived that figure by looking at 2016 survey data by the Commonwealth Fund, a research organization dedicated to healthcare policy. Its international survey showed that 18% of the adult population in the U.S. did not fill a prescription due to cost. The UK’s rate was nine times lower at 2%.

Last week, I came across new information that showed about six million Americans of Medicare age were included among the 45 million. A new cross-sectional study of Commonwealth Fund international survey data from 2014 shows the percentage of older adults, 55 and up, that do not take medication because of drug prices. People in 11 high-income countries—22,532 overall—were asked if they had gone without prescribed medications in the past year because of cost.

In the U.S., 16.8% of 1593 people said yes.

For those 65 and older the percentage was 12%.

U.S. Census data from July of 2016 shows that there are about 48 million Americans 65 and older.

That means 5.8 million Americans, 65 and older, forgo taking their meds due to cost.

For international comparison: the percentage of older people skipping medications due to prices in the UK was 3.1%. In France, it was only 1.6%.

Sadly, it was quite high in Canada and Australia: 8.3%, and 6.8%, respectively.

The academic, medical term for such medication skipping because of prices is called cost-related nonadherence (CRNA). It’s a serious public health issue, one in which Americans end up getting sicker, going to the emergency room, or dead solely because they can’t pay for medications. As we move into the season when Medicare beneficiaries pick Part D plans, we’ll continue to look at how our oldest citizens are affected by high drug prices. But it’s clear that Medicare pharmacy benefits are falling far short of what is needed. While price should not block ANYONE from essential medications, the fact that so many millions of our oldest citizens who need their prescribed meds the most are forced to go without is disgusting.

 

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The Internet Is Not to Blame for Opioid Epidemic

The Internet is the last place Americans look to when they want to get high on prescription narcotics, according to government data. One-tenth of 1% (.1%) of Americans who obtain prescription opioids for non-medical purposes (to “get high”) say that they obtain them over the Internet.

This data is based on the latest survey, published in 2015, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Compare that to the main channels people use for prescription opiates for getting high:

 

                              50.5% from friends

                              22.1% from their doctors

                              10.9% buy them from friends

                              4.8% from a drug deal or other stranger

                              4.4% took or stole it from a friend

                              3.1% from more than one doctor

                              0.4% stole from a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic

                              3.6% some other way not asked in the survey

 

This information is important to the community of companies, organizations and consumers that support online access to safe, affordable medication and personal drug importation. Groups funded by the pharmaceutical industry use the tragedy that is the opioid crisis in America to oppose legislation and regulations that would otherwise help more Americans safely import lower-cost medication. They do so by naming the Internet the culprit for the epidemic. The data indicates that this blame is seriously misplaced.  (more…)

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Buying Insulin in Canada Without a Prescription (BTC)

With insulin prices skyrocketing, no wonder the diabetic community is taking to social media to network and share their experiences as they swap tips and tricks not only for moral support, but also financial.

This month, we received an interesting consumer comment via our Facebook page asking if we knew that Americans are driving to Canada to buy insulin without a prescription. Well, no. As our primary focus is mail-order pharmacy, it wasn’t on our radar. Nevertheless, it sparked our interest and we’d like to share our findings with the PharmacyChecker community.

After calling 20 pharmacies across Canada (specifically in the following cities: Québec City, Toronto, Alberta, Victoria, Winnipeg and Regina) the answer is clear: Americans can obtain insulin without a prescription in Canada. All pharmacists that I called reported—rather matter-of-factly—that you do not need a prescription for any insulin product, which would include Lantus Solostar, Humalog and Levemir. We specifically talked about Lantus Solostar, a popular, long-acting insulin. The price in Canada for a three-month supply of Lantus Solostar (3 ml) is currently around $447.00 while the average retail price in the U.S. is a staggering $1,160.39. Apparently, they practice what they preach: all patients—including Americans—do not need a prescription to obtain insulin in Canada. While a prescription is not needed, the drugs are available only from the pharmacist and must be retained within an area of the pharmacy where there is no public access and no opportunity for patient self-selection (also known in the U.S. as Behind the Counter (BTC).

There are some important nuances about insulin sales in Canada that might interest you. To start, insulin is not on the Health Canada Prescription Drug List. Health Canada—the regulatory agency in Canada that is comparable to the FDA in the United States—lists insulin as a Schedule II drug. The word “schedule” in the U.S. is used to identify those medications associated with greater potential for addiction, such as Ambien or Vicodin (a prescription opiate) and other controlled substnaces. The lexicon is confusingly different in Canada and important to explain here! In Canada, Schedule II drugs, while not as strictly regulated, do still require professional intervention from the pharmacist at the point of sale and possibly a referral to a practitioner. Click here for the drug schedules regulations in British Columbia.

And did you know that when you’re crossing the border, the U.S. Customs Border Patrol (CBP) is not allowed to stop the importation of FDA-approved medication from Canada for personal use – even though it’s technically prohibited? See: Public Law 115-31. Now you know!

Something to keep in mind for those Americans ordering medications from Canada (or from any other country) through a PharmacyChecker-verified online pharmacy: you must have a prescription if a prescription is required in the United States even if one is not required elsewhere!

So, in practice, insulin products can be sold in Canada without a prescription after consultation with a pharmacist. Sound great? It is! Nevertheless, be sure to give that friendly Canadian pharmacist a call to make sure they can help you before filling up your tank for that road trip to Toronto.

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