It’s widely known that Americans buy medications from Canada and other countries because the prices are much lower. What many people do not know is how people are doing this.
Even our foremost scholars on the issue of U.S. pharmaceutical prices don’t know. In an article published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ), readers are informed that:
“A modest proportion of U.S. citizens travel to Canada and Mexico to purchase lower priced prescription drugs.23”
That footnote – 23 – links to a 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Survey, which includes the question:
“Have you or another family member living in your household ever bought prescription drugs from Canada or other countries outside the United States in order to pay a lower price, or not?”
Eight percent of respondents said that they had, which is about 20 million Americans, but the survey did not ask how they did it.
The data is far from perfect. I looked at several data sources when I wrote a report in 2015 called Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation and Public Health. In one analysis of an FDA survey in 2012, I estimated that about six million Americans were purchasing medication from outside the U.S. over the Internet. I believe that figure is somewhat inflated. (more…)
Tagged with: Aaron Kesselheim, BMJ, CDC, Daraprim, Kaiser Family Foundation, lomustine, Ravi Gupta
More than 50 health professionals signed a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, members of Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking that we expressly permit personal prescription drug importation. The letter comes along the ever-swelling wave of patient and provider outrage against Congress’ and the president’s failure to act on drug prices, a result of the Big Pharma/U.S. politician relationship, which is only growing cozier.
The letter states:
“Our patients, who have purchased medications through the help of pharmacy storefronts or international online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com, have received safe and effective medications from legitimate pharmacies in Canada and several other countries. We respect that the FDA is charged with protecting our nation’s medicine supply from counterfeit and otherwise substandard drugs. However, there is no logical reason why the FDA should interfere with the delivery of safe and effective medications to our patients.”
Tagged with: Congress, doctors, FDA, Florida, healthcare providers, prescription justice, trump
The recently signed appropriations or “omnibus” bill to fund the federal government includes an additional $94 million (Section 778) for the FDA to screen and stop drug imports at international mail facilities (IMFs). That could mean fewer people receiving their prescription medications that they have ordered from Canadian or other international pharmacies.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the FDA’s coming crackdown against opioids could be a cover for greater import refusals and destruction of imported medications. This new appropriation of $94 million is a lot of money. In the case of drug importation, that money could be used for good (intercepting opioid ingredients en route to drug dealers or addicts) or evil (refusing and destroying prescribed medication en route to a patient who can’t afford the drug here).
You can read the section of the bill showing the appropriation and what it’s for at the end of this post. It states that the money is for “necessary expenses of processing opioid and other articles imported or offered for import through international mail facilities of the U.S. Postal Service.” Those “other articles” include prescription medications from pharmacies in Canada and other countries. Since the FDA considers those imports illegal, at least under most circumstances, it can refuse them and even destroy them – but must first alert the patient who ordered them giving them due process to defend their prescription order. (more…)
Tagged with: FDA, international mail facilities, omnibus, opioids, Scott Gottlieb
Tagged with: Canada, Canadian pharmacies, CMPI, Peter Pitts, Pfizer, phrma, thurston, utah
I’m telling you Canadian drugs are safe but vote against importation.
In the Utah House of Representatives, Health and Human Services Committee, there was a meeting a few weeks back to discuss Rep. Norman Thurston’s drug importation bill. The bill’s aim is to lower prescription drug costs for Utah by importing lower-cost medications from Canada. The committee passed it 9-2. A week later, the Utah House passed the bill 39-31! But in that committee meeting, during the public session where organizations came out in favor and against the bill, something unique happened.
During his remarks against Thurston’s drug importation bill, one Mr. Peter Pitts said, and I quote from the audio clip: “I will tell you one thing in defense of Canada…If you drive up across the border and you go to a brick and mortar pharmacy and you get a product. That product is safe and effective; just as safe and effective as a U.S. product.”
I’ve followed and written about Big Pharma’s positions on importation for over 15 years. Its mantra and that of its hired guns is that the U.S. system for regulating pharmaceuticals is the world’s “gold standard.” As you’ll discover, Mr. Pitts, as I see it, is one of those hired guns and a notable one. Therefore, it’s great and fun to have him on the record, clearly (emphatically) stating that Canada’s system for regulating prescription drugs and the drugs sold in Canadian pharmacies are just as good as the ones sold here. That means Canada is the Gold Standard, too!
Listen to the whole hearing.
Note to all my fellow Americans that didn’t already know: if you live close to Canada and can’t afford your medication, then, according to Mr. Pitts, the medication there is damn good…not to mention a lot less expensive. Did you also know that federal law bans U.S. Customs Border Patrol from preventing people who are traveling back from Canada from importing small quantities of prescription drugs when they are for personal use? See: Can I drive to Canada to fill a prescription?
Who is this guy? Who cares? (more…)
The Utah State Capitol
Utah State Representative Norman Thurston (R-64) has introduced legislation that would allow pharmacy wholesalers in Utah to import lower-cost pharmaceuticals to be sold within state lines. The bill’s goal is to lower the growing burden of prescription drug costs on the Utah budget and reduce out-of-pocket costs for Utah residents. The legislation is largely based on model state drug importation legislation drafted by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP).
The bill, H.B. 163, “The Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Act,” differs substantially from past state-based initiatives, legislation, and laws on prescription drug importation. The most pronounced difference is that it seeks formal approval from the federal government to import medication from Canada. Past state laws on drug importation sought to circumvent federal regulations, such as in Maine, where the law was overturned in 2015. (more…)
Tagged with: azar, nashp, state, thurston, utah
FDA Testing Lower-Cost Imported Medications
Tens of millions of people have bought medications from foreign pharmacies – despite the technical illegality of importing those medications. According to reporting by Kaiser Health News last month, the FDA tested imported medications, apparently to see if what Americans are doing is safe. All medications the FDA tested “contain[ed] the ingredients matching the medicines ordered.”
The Kaiser Health News reporting was focused on international pharmacy options offered by local governments and school. While that’s interesting, it’s not breaking news (I mentioned it here). The FDA testing imports and saying the medications are safe, albeit begrudgingly, is breaking news. (more…)
Tagged with: public education, testing, transparency