PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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PharmacyChecker Policy on Buying Insulin from Canada is Stricter than U.S. Safety Standards

I write this post about insulin with ambivalence and frustration, but also hope. The diabetes patient and activist community is rightfully seething, screaming at the top of their lungs about high insulin costs in America. One young man stands out in my mind. He recently died because he could not afford his insulin, and now his mother bravely speaks out about her son’s death—a heartbreaking depiction of how drug prices are a now a national crisis.

In a March article in Insulin Nation, the journalist/editor Audrey Farley and I discussed the issue of buying more affordable insulin online from pharmacies located in Canada and the U.K. She found that many of her readers were doing so and wanted to let them know how to go about it safely.

One carton of Lantus Solostar (5 pens of 3ml each) goes for about $430 at a CVS in Brooklyn, New York. At Rexall Drugs in Toronto, the price is $84.99. That’s 80% less. Until recently, a small number of Canadian pharmacies in our Verification Program sold it for about $180. The online Canadian price is higher because of the fees associated with special packaging and shipping – but it’s still 56% less than the U.S. price. For those prices, Americans living with diabetes could save a couple of thousand dollars a year; they could stay alive.

Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medication and, because of that, requires significant precautions when shipping. To prevent it from degrading requires special packaging. Effective patient communication is also necessary. Because of our recent refrigerated medications policy revision that places stricter requirements on pharmacies in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, most will likely choose not to sell insulin to Americans— at least not for a while. (more…)

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Is the FDA Summit about Online Opioid Sales or Opposing Drug Importation?

Americans censored from affordable insulin

For years, the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA have used the global problem of counterfeit drugs to lobby against importation of lower-cost prescription medicines. They have used the online sale of controlled drugs without a prescription as a pretext to curtail online access to licensed pharmacies in Canada. And now they’re using the opioid addiction and overdose crisis as well. So, when I learned that there will be a meeting hosted by the FDA, a “Summit” to address the problem, my radar went up. What is this really about, and who has a seat at the table?

The event is called “FDA Online Opioid Summit: Reducing Availability of Illicit Opioids Online.” I have no doubt that the participants genuinely want to stop illegal opioid sales on social media sites and rogue pharmacy sites, but Panel #1 is essentially the usual pharma suspects from the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, who spent about half a million bucks lobbying Congress to stop prescription importation legislation that doesn’t even allow imports of controlled substances at all. Since 2009, that group has been pushed by Eli Lilly on the Obama administration to shut down safe international pharmacies under the guise of going after rogue sites and counterfeiters. (more…)

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Dr. Kristina Acri’s Blatantly Misleading Op-Ed Opposing State Drug Importation Bill

drug pricesThe relentless deluge of Big Pharma bunk in the media continues. Dr. Kristina Acri, an associate professor of economics at Colorado College, recently published an op-ed in a local Colorado newspaper – The Pueblo Chieftain – called “Drug importation bill a poison pill.” Dr. Acri is against a state bill supported by Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), who is also running for Governor, that would allow the wholesale importation of lower-cost medication from Canada. This bill is similar to one recently passed in Vermont, which came from drug importation model legislation created by the National Academy for State Health Policy.

The Pueblo Chieftain did not include that Dr. Acri has worked for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. She is also known as a staunch supporter of the drug industry’s intellectual property rights agenda.

Congressman Polis was given ample opportunity to respectfully refute Dr. Acri’s stance in his own op-ed calledA safe way to lower drug costs.” I liked his op-ed. Feel free to read both of their positions, but one thing he wrote about Dr. Acri’s piece was wrong: “I very much appreciate Dr. Acri offering a constructive, fact-based critique that enriches our community’s discussion of this important issue.” Her piece was decidedly not fact-based, and it needs to be called out. Let’s break it down.

First, she writes: A study by the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development showed that counterfeit drugs accounted for 2.5 percent – or $461 billion— of the world drug market in 2013.” I looked at that report, and it states that in 2013 international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods (not just drugs) “represented up to 2.5% of world trade, or as much as $461 billion.” That section is referring to total world trade – not solely pharmaceuticals. That total includes all counterfeit products ranging from “high-end consumer luxury goods such as watches, perfumes or leather goods, to business-to-business products such as toys, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and foodstuffs.” Over the years, the industry has plucked numbers out of thin are on the topic of counterfeit drugs, getting “facts” to stick in the media, but this one really took the cake.

See the study for yourself: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/trade-in-counterfeit-and-pirated-goods_9789264252653-en#page12. (more…)

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