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.
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…)
There’s a big lie peppered throughout news articles about buying medication online: 50% of medications ordered online are counterfeit, based on a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). That claim is without merit, but nonetheless pushed as fact by pharma-funded groups like Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies. WHO never conducted such a study. In its section on counterfeit drugs, WHO used to reference an unnamed study claiming that 50% of medications ordered from illegal online pharmacies that don’t publish a mailing address are counterfeit. WHO finally removed it from its latest public education page on counterfeit drugs. That “data” has worked to scare people away from buying more affordable medication online from other countries.
What does this have to do with the opioid addiction crisis and drug company propaganda? This week it was widely reported that, essentially, drug companies fueled the epidemic of opioid abuse in America by misusing a single letter written by a doctor in 1980 about the benefits of opioids. The letter was to the New England Journal of Medicine and stated that only four people out of 40,000 who received treatment with prescription opioid medications became addicted. It was not a peer-reviewed study or even a study at all! From CBS News:
“And that is how a one-paragraph letter with no supporting information helped seed a nationwide epidemic of misuse of drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin by convincing doctors that opioids were safer than we now know them to be.”
The devil (and that’s not a euphemism) is truly in the details. The author of the letter, Dr. Hershel Jick, affirmed that the letter was meant to cover patients in a hospital setting in the short-term, not out-patient settings, long-term use, or for pick-up at a pharmacy when someone has backpain. Dr. Jick stated: “I’m essentially mortified that that letter to the editor was used as an excuse to do what these drug companies did.” (more…)
The prescription narcotic epidemic in America is banging on our national consciousness, almost as loudly as the issue of skyrocketing drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry and its front groups have tried in the past to conflate safe international online pharmacies with the illegal and dangerous online sale of controlled drugs, including prescription narcotics, and I’ve called them out over the years. Safe international online pharmacies do not sell prescription narcotics at all. But, unlike safe international online pharmacies, which sell non controlled medications at much lower prices, is Big Pharma pushing narcotics and fueling drug addiction in America? Apparently, yes.
As reported in The Fix, a documentary film called “Prescription Thugs” explores the connection between the pharmaceutical industry, the power it wields in Congress, and the painkiller addiction epidemic. It is the story of people who were introduced to painkillers when their doctors prescribed them, only to find themselves addicted. For years, the industry was making a certain formulation of the popular prescription opiate OxyContin that was easily abused by addicts and therefore driving astronomical sales. When a new form of the drug made it harder to crush and therefore inject intravenously, its sales tanked by 80%. You can view the film’s trailer at http://www.prescriptionthugs.com/.
I like showing Americans who are searching online for affordable medication, often from foreign pharmacies, that their mom and pop pharmacy on Main Street U.S.A. can actually offer a better deal. It’s actually pretty common. The generic version of Valium, diazepam, which treats anxiety, is a perfect example. Bottom line: no need to buy online or from Canada to save money.
Sleeping Woman by Gyula Derkovits [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
According to the CDC, 50-70 million Americans report having trouble with sleep. Sixty million prescriptions were written in 2011 to help them, according to IMS Health. About 60% of those products contained the active ingredient of Ambien, called Zolpidem, which is also the generic name for this very popular sleep drug. Are you an American looking to buy Ambien or Zolpidem? Well, don’t purchase this medication online from a Canadian pharmacy or anywhere else overseas. I’m going to explain why with a real-life story.
A friend of mine, let’s call her Bertha, who is on Medicare Part D, is prescribed and takes Zolpidem. For most of the year, she only had to make a co-payment of about $3 at her local pharmacy. Then, a couple of months ago, the same pharmacy told Bertha that the price jumped to $46 for a one-month supply because her Part D plan had annual quantity restrictions for that medication.
So Bertha went to PharmacyChecker.com, typed in Zolpidem, then clicked 5mg, and read the following:
Why not? Because Ambien (Zolpidem) is a controlled medication, meaning one subject to abuse, and we don’t allow online pharmacies that sell controlled medication internationally in our Verification Program. Rogue online pharmacies, domestic or foreign, might offer to sell you this medication without a prescription but don’t buy it: you’re risking your health by doing so. Even if they sell you the real thing, we strongly recommend not using controlled drugs without a prescription on or offline. The good news for Americans is that, if they shop around, the generic version of Ambien can be very affordable at the corner pharmacy. Prescription discount coupons often make them even more affordable. A new feature on PharmacyChecker.com (that is still being tested so be patient) can help…and so our story continues.
Under the notification “Online pharmacies in our program do not offer Zolpidem”, Bertha read the following
“But if you’re in the U.S., you can compare drug prices at your local pharmacies using a prescription discount card or coupon.”
She then clicked the “Search U.S. Local Pharmacy” button (see example below)–
–typed in her zip code and compared neighborhood pharmacy prices that are only available using a prescription discount coupon. She discovered that the cash price with the coupon was only about $10 – much better than the $46 she would have had to pay without insurance. She went to her local pharmacy and filled the script with no problems.
Like most Americans, Bertha has health insurance and a prescription drug plan. Unfortunately, tens of millions still do not. For them, if they get a script for Ambien, the savings can be even more dramatic with a prescription coupon or discount card. For example, I found at least one pharmacy charging $159 for a one-month supply of Zolpidem 5mg! Against that price, finding it for ten bucks with a coupon is a savings of $149/month or 94%!
If you’re still awake after reading this, I’m going to throw you a curve ball: there is a lot of controversy about prescription sleep medication, including Ambien, related to overprescribing, side effects, and questionable benefits. I found a good article about it in the New York Times and I recommend it. But if you get that prescription from your healthcare provider for Ambien, and are ready to fill it: go local, not international and check local pharmacy prices on PharmacyChecker.com.