The company Blink Health is advertising Canadian drugs on
Google, even though it does not sell medication from Canadian pharmacies. Should
the company do that? Is that false advertising?
in early 2016, Blink Health offers consumers the ability to purchase
prescription medicines from its app or website and pick them up from local
pharmacies in their neighborhoods. This distinguishes them other drug price
comparison leaders that offer pharmacy discount cards and coupons for U.S.
pharmacies – ours is called the PharmacyChecker
Discount Card. Since Blink Health’s launch, several similar services have
sprouted, most notably Capsule,
which launched in my hometown.
As I understand it, the firm’s goal is to find and increase
discounts as it develops greater buying power through greater volumes, also
known as economies of scale. I like it and it’s my hope – and belief – that Blink
Health is saving people money on their generics. So, hats off to you, Blink
But it’s kind of aggravating that, as I see it, Blink Health is fooling consumers who are looking for lower cost prescription drugs from Canada who will likely not get what they’re looking for when they click that ad. Brand drugs cost way more at Blink Health than in Canada.
This post is mostly a story about a very well manufactured,
safe and effective, foreign
version of an FDA-approved drug. These drugs are normally far less
expensive than the FDA-approved version sold in the U.S. and arguably just as
safe. The FDA can prevent the importation of such drugs – but the agency
is actually encouraged by law not to do so if the import is for personal
use only. It’s also a story about consumers and their providers navigating
conflicting public information about buying less expensive medicines online
from foreign countries.
A friend of mine, who has very difficult to control
cholesterol, was prescribed Livalo, an FDA-approved brand of the drug pitavastatin.
Let’s call him John. With his insurance, Livalo still costs John about $310 for
a three-month supply – about 90 pills. He doesn’t want to pay that much if he
can help it. John knows about our company, PharmacyChecker. He went to our site
to discover that brand-name Livalo (pitavastatin)
costs only $90 for a three-month supply at the lowest-cost
PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacy: a savings of 71%. That
wasn’t enough to convince John to move forward with the purchase. Why not? That
brand-name pitavastatin, sold in Turkey, is sold under the name Alipza –
The FDA has drafted a proposed rule to facilitate wholesale importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada, pursuant to Section 804 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Importation from Canada is legal under this section of U.S. law, but only if the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies, as stated in Part L, that such importation would pose “no additional risk” to the public and would help save the American consumer money. It’s a major milestone that the FDA is willing to and on the cusp of finally providing that certification – but that’s only for wholesale importation. What about personal drug importation? Wholesale drug importation is when people or companies import drugs for re-sale, usually described as commercial quantities. Personal drug importation is when a consumer fills a prescription in Canada or another country and imports it either carrying it across the border or through the mail.
Section 804, as clearly stated in Part J (1), treats
personal drug importation differently, and this is of paramount importance for
policymakers and the general public to understand. Section 804 doesn’t legalize
it across the board but affirms that Americans should be permitted to import
prescription drugs for personal use, as long as it doesn’t represent an “unreasonable
risk” to the patient. This more liberal standard is fundamentally
different from Part L of Section 804, which mandates “no additional risk”
to the public health, the standard necessary for the overall section to
become effective. Where does that leave us in terms of law and policy?