PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Big Pharma, Big Drug Dealers

Oxycontin tablets crushed into powder for snorting

Oxycontin tablets crushed into powder for snorting
Image by 51fifty, Wikimedia

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/.

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Buying Valium Online To Save Money? Try the Generic at Your Local U.S. Pharmacy Instead

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.

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Buying Ambien Online From a Foreign Pharmacy…Don’t!

Sleeping Woman painting by Gyula Derkovits

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:

Zolpidem 5 mg Prices — Generic Version - Online pharmacies in our program do not offer Zolpidem 5 mg for sale.

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)–

Search U.S. Local Pharmacy Prices

–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.

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FDA Warns about “Potentially” Counterfeit Diazepam in Central Africa; We Say Buy Locally and Save!

This diazepam - generic Valium - is really haloperidol.

This diazepam – generic Valium – is really haloperidol.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning last week that a drug product sold in Central Africa, mislabeled as diazepam, which was actually the drug haloperidol (for schizophrenia), had caused 700 adverse reactions, such as acute contractions of the muscles in the face and neck. While there are no reports that the product entered the U.S., FDA cautioned Americans who take diazepam that it could, potentially, be sold over the Internet and to be on the lookout for the pills you see in the image to your left. Sound advice!

For the backstory checkout the World Health Organization’s Medical Product Alert.

Diazepam is the generic name for the anti-anxiety medication commonly known as Valium. It is a controlled prescription drug, meaning one associated with abuse use and addiction.

We recommend to U.S. and all consumers that you not buy controlled medication internationally from an online pharmacy. Online pharmacies that sell Valium, and all controlled drugs, internationally are not eligible for the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program. (more…)

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FedEx indicted on Internet sales of controlled drugs without a prescription: are online pharmacies the problem?

In online pharmacy news, the major story today is that FedEx was indicted for distributing controlled prescription drugs for Internet pharmacies to people who did not have valid prescriptions. FedEx claims it is not guilty and that its indictment and potential prosecution threaten a key principle of its business ethics and federal law: don’t open the mail. FedEx also says that for years they have asked the DEA for a list of targeted illegal online pharmacies but have not received one and that it cannot be expected to act as a law enforcement agency. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that FedEx specifically “conspired” with two online pharmacies selling controlled drugs without proper prescriptions.

I’m departing from this media hot topic (better you read it in Bloomberg, USA Today, etc) to give you some backstory on controlled drugs and Internet sales. Our blog’s usual focus is on consumers seeking non-controlled prescription drugs online, and the PharmacyChecker.com Verification bans online pharmacies that sell controlled without a valid prescription, and all international online pharmacies that sell controlled drugs into the U.S. However, some Americans try to obtain prescription narcotics and other controlled drugs without a prescription online, which can turn out deadly. (more…)

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Feds Target American (Not International) Pharmacies in Prescription Narcotic Crackdown

The ongoing federal government crackdown on U.S. pharmacy sales of narcotic prescription medications, most notably against Walgreens in Florida, serves to remind us that prescription drug abuse is a major health problem. But only a tiny fraction of illegal prescription narcotic sales take place online, less than 1% according to Agent Robert Hill of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (.4% to be exact).

The DEA seeks to shutdown a major Walgreen’s distribution center in Jupiter, Florida. As part of its investigation of Walgreens, the DEA found that one of its pharmacies was supplied 3271 bottles of oxycodone, a highly abused narcotic, during a 40-day period in a town with less than 3000 people. It appears that Walgreens knew about supply abuses but did not heed the warnings until confronted by DEA. One email obtained during the investigation shows an employee confused about how the receiving pharmacy could “even house this many bottles.”

Walgreens is a member of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program and LegitScript.com.

The prescription drug abuse crisis in the United States is a domestic not international or “foreign pharmacy” distribution problem.  In fact, reputable international online pharmacies, based in Canada or elsewhere, do not sell controlled substances to Americans.  When it comes to the Internet, Americans should use extreme caution if ordering controlled substances online by only ordering from licensed U.S. pharmacies with the proper DEA registration and in compliance with the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act.

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