I’ve recently been exercising bragging rights about our new and improved drug price comparisons. Americans seeking medicine from Canada and other countries are finding better deals on generics right here at home. But the crisis of high drug prices in the U.S. persists when it comes to brand medications. Recent price research by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that brand name drug prices have increased by 76% over just the past six years.
This week, PharmacyChecker released new price analysis
savings for 10 popular patented drugs, comparing U.S. discounted medication
prices with those available at accredited international online pharmacies. The
average discount from Canadian pharmacies is 75%. If ordering from farther abroad,
That’s right, folks. There’s no need to buy online and import from Canada, or even from India, to save money when it comes to most commonly dispensed generic drugs.
researched prices of the 40 most commonly dispensed generic drugs in the
U.S. to compare them to ones offered at accredited pharmacies in Canada. Four
of the generics are controlled drugs, which are not available to U.S. consumers
from PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacies; and two of
them are not available in Canada. Out of
the 34 drugs we compared prices on, 88% were cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada
and at an average savings of 68%.
Forcing price transparency in drug ads, proposing international reference pricing for Medicare Part B, and even drug importation can all be found in President Trump’s lunchbox of policy ideas to take on the drug companies, who are “getting away with murder.”
Huh, am I dreaming?
Is Donald Trump really a Republican? Is former Eli Lilly President Alex Azar, now HHS Secretary, really advocating such radical ideas, such as importation, against his pharma friends? Scott Gottlieb, our free-market fanatic FDA Commissioner is crusading against high drug prices, too: winner of Patients for Affordable Drugs Price Fighting Hero Award!
Pinch me. Am I awake?
I am awake and I’m not fooled by this subtle, probably well planned out public relations defense against the progressive and populist tide, which includes Republicans and Democrats. Forget importation this week: 92% of Republican and 96% of Democratic voters support ending the ban on Medicare negotiating drug prices. Finally, the country is united!
Ending the ban on Medicare price negotiations could bring down prices for drugs in all of Medicare.
But Alex Azar’s proposal to reduce drug prices in Medicare
is only for Part B, half the country, and on a small group of medications.
Forcing drug companies to list prices on TV drugs ads does not bring those
prices down. And the importation
idea is good, but super limited, and it’s still just talk!
“If one was to design a program that appeared to address the need to curb high prices for drugs, without doing much in Trump’s first term, and promising nothing after 2025, it might look like the proposal.”
On the other hand—and this is where compromise begins to seep in and you can’t help but know it’s because Trump is no normal Republican—the former President of Eli Lilly USA, Alex Azar, is advocating for forcing price reductions on drugs in Medicare Part B and importing foreign versions of lower-cost medications for single source drugs; and working in an administration giving voice to drug price transparency. Who would have thought that possible two years ago?
The pharmaceutical industry, generally, does not like our company. As an extension of that feeling, the FDA doesn’t love us either. Basically, we are in Big Pharma’s crosshairs because the information we provide helps people find more affordable medicines from other countries and import it for personal use.
Congress and the FDA are banging on the door of Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. about stopping people from selling opioids on their platforms. We can debate until the cows come home about what content should be self-censored — meaning removed without a court order — but please hear me out on why Instagram’s dissing PharmacyChecker doesn’t even come close to acceptable and let us know if you agree or disagree.
First of all, PharmacyChecker.com does not sell or facilitate the sale of medication. Medications are not purchased on our site and we have no role in the processing of prescription orders. We verify credentials and publish information about online pharmacies and drug prices. That information is globally accessible on the Internet.
By the way, our Verification Program bans online pharmacies that ship controlled drugs of any kind into the U.S. This includes not only prescription opioids, but also Valium, Xanax, and Adderall. We’re with the DEA on strict controls and highly attuned to and concerned about the opioid crisis. I have friends who view our policy as too conservative. You get the picture.
We agree with cracking down against dealers of opioids, with Fentanyl being the greatest concern. On the other hand, we have seenPharma and the government use a crackdown against addictive prescription drug sales online to veer into a crackdown against imports from Canada of decidedly regular meds that treat asthma, diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, etc.
We launched PharmacyChecker in 2003 to help people searching the Internet for lower medicine prices from real pharmacies, domestic and international. Our verification program is run by a licensed PharmD from Massachusetts, Dr. Shivam Patel. Pharmacies listed in our program must require valid prescriptions, sell only personal-use quantities, have a pharmacy license, and cannot sell controlled drugs of any kind internationally, into the U.S.
In 2012, I was asked to write a chapter in a book called Hacking Politics, which is now published as an anthology about the battle to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act. My chapter was called the “Online Pharmacy Story.” In short, due to lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry, SOPA contained language that would have potentially made PharmacyChecker.com illegal at a maximum; at minimum, it would have increased our intermediary liability exposure. I strongly opposed it. And yet we see big industries moving SOPA by a thousand cuts.
I believe there’s some chance that Instagram dissed our account accidentally, based on a sweep of sites having to do with drugs, medicines, pharmacies, etc. But there’s also a small chance that Pharma’s influence led to the direct shutdown of our account as a slap in the face to PharmacyChecker advocacy efforts. I’m constantly criticizing Pharma’s propaganda about importation and online pharmacies our blog, in the New York Times, RightsCon, and directly to members of Congress in my testimony.
In fact, last year I caught PhRMA, meaning the big pharma trade association, placing Google ads using our name to dissuade people against importation of lower-cost medicines. As I wrote in our blog, that was a badge of honor but kind of disconcerting as well.
Late last month, the FDA called Instagram, Google, Reddit, and many others, to what was called the FDA Opioid Online Summit. I blogged about it beforehand mostly to note that groups funded by Pharma were well represented, ones that focus on opposing importation of lower-cost medicines and use the opioid crisis for that goal. Initially, the summit was billed as a public event, but it turns out that journalists were locked out and those that covered the public part did conclude that opioids were not the sole target, but cheaper meds were open season, too.
We want our Instagram account reinstated on principle, yet no one has responded to our multiple attempts at contacting Instagram’s customer support.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) requested an investigation into drug price increases among the Medicare Part D program’s 20 most widely-prescribed medications over a five-year period. The investigation, conducted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, found that average annual drug price increases were 12%, about 10 times higher than the rate of inflation. One drug, Nitrostat, increased by 477% during the five-year period. PharmacyChecker decided to find out what the savings would be from international online pharmacies for cash payers on these medications. The average potential prescription savings is 80%, further evidence that seniors can benefit from lower drug prices outside the U.S. when their pharmacy benefits are inadequate.
Adding a little spice to this research, we found that 70% of these 20 medications, the ones sold in U.S. pharmacies, are foreign-made, imported drugs. This shows that importation is legal for drug companies that make medications overseas. The countries where they are made get the manufacturing jobs; we get the higher prices!
And what about those drugs made in the U.S., often in Puerto Rico? You can buy those drugs cheaper in Canada. Synthroid is a perfect example. Synthroid, sold in Canada, is made in Puerto Rico and can be purchased for 15 cents a pill, compared to $1.68 a pill in the U.S.: a 93% savings for the same drug.
Here’s a crazy one: The medication Premarin is made in Canada. It’s $6.93 a pill at a U.S. pharmacy, but can be bought online and filled from a U.K. pharmacy for 17 cents: a 98% savings. In this case, the drug made in Canada is cheaper in the U.K. than in Canada.
And what about Nitrostat, the drug that increased by 477% over the past five years? It’s 80 cents a pill in the U.S. and only 28 cents in Canada. The drug is made in Puerto Rico.
When it comes to getting your prescription medication for an affordable price, nothing compares to comparing prices. We talk about online, international options for prescription drug savings a lot. Americans use our site, PharmacyChecker.com, to find much lower prices available abroad for their prescribed medications. They also use us to find discount coupons for their local pharmacy.
After a disappointing visit to Walgreens, Garrick Feldman, editor in chief of the Arkansas Leader, did it the old-fashioned way by calling around his town. In doing so, he discovered how people are price-gouged by not only Big Pharma—but by their local pharmacies. His story is awesome. (more…)