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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Medication Safety is a Weak Argument Against Allowing Personal Prescription Importation

In this blog post I’m going to get personal. Not about me but about importing medication from Canada and other countries. You’ll see what I mean. Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the budget bill, which would have paved the way for future deficit neutral spending to implement new regulations expanding lawful access to lower cost imported medication from wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated 52-46.

Let’s forget about the fact that drug companies give members of Congress lots of money. OK, I can’t forget: it’s about two billion dollars over the last 15 years. Some senators who voted against the amendment cited their concerns with safety as a basis for their vote. Let me explain why they are wrong, at least when it comes to personal vs. wholesale drug importation. (more…)

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Nineteen million Americans Have Imported Medication for Personal Use to Pay Less and Happy New Year

New Year's Eve Times Square CrowdAs we close out 2016, I’m not surprised to be reporting and commenting on new survey data by the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that 19 million Americans have purchased and imported lower cost medication from Canada and other countries. I suspect the number is higher and I’m sure it’s not high enough, as I’ll discuss at the conclusion of this post.

First, as reported in Kaiser Health News: “As drug prices have spiraled upward in the past decade, tens of millions of generally law-abiding Americans have committed an illegal act in response: They have bought prescriptions outside the U.S. and imported them.” The Kaiser story also reports that many such purchases are made online and while the FDA warns that many online pharmacies are not safe, “…many medicines purchased from another country are the same as the ones patients buy in the U.S.” That’s all true. The key to safety when buying medications internationally is only purchasing from properly verified websites, ones approved by PharmacyChecker.

Just to recap why importation is a lifeline, let’s look at some highlights from recent data. (more…)

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Medications Dropped by PBMs in 2017 Are More Affordable Internationally at a Quarter the Price

How would you feel if the cost for your brand name drug went up from a copayment of $44 to a cash price of $614 for a three-month supply ($6.82 a pill) when you went in to fill your script in 2017? If you take brand name Crestor 10mg then that may happen to you if you’re signed up with CVS Caremark, which is dropping that drug in 2017. In fact, large PBMs, such as CVS Caremark and Express Scripts are dropping lots of medications from their formularies in 2017. What’s insane is that brand name Crestor 10mg from the lowest cost international online pharmacy verified by PharmacyChecker is 29 cents a pill or $26 for a 90 day supply, dispensed from Turkey. If you prefer to buy it from Canada, it will cost a low of about $2.85 per pill, much more than Turkey but still almost 60% less than in the U.S.

We looked at 15 brand name medications that will no longer be available on some PBM formularies in 2017 and found that the maximum savings average is 74% if you purchase the medication from a PharmacyChecker-verified international online pharmacy compared to the lowest cost U.S. pharmacy options. For more on this price analysis check out today’s news release.

Most Americans have insurance, about 90%, which is a record high. No, I’m not getting into a discussion about the successes and failures of Obamacare, but you should know that just because you’re insured doesn’t mean you can afford medication. Looking at Kaiser Family Foundation data, about 41% of underinsured Americans between 18-64 don’t fill a prescription because of cost. That’s about 16.5 million (too many) people.

Lest you forget, for many of these dropped drugs, the generic is often available in the U.S. at lower cost than the brand name from an international online pharmacy. But not with Crestor. The generic of Crestor, Rosuvastatin, can be purchased at your local pharmacy, with the lowest prices ranging from $35-50 for a 3-month supply, which is more (but still comparable) to the lowest international, online cost of brand name Crestor.

Happy Holidays from PharmacyChecker!

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People’s Pharmacy Talks About Huge Savings on Narrow Therapeutic Index Drugs from Canada

People's Pharmacy on NTI Drug Savings in Canada

People’s Pharmacy on NTI Drug Savings in Canada

This past summer we wrote about The Graedon’s Guide to Saving Money on Medicine, by the People’s Pharmacy, as a very worthwhile read. One of its sections talked about Narrow Therapeutic Index drugs for which generics are usually low cost and available in the U.S. but for some patients only the brand works: and the brands are very expensive. NTI drugs are those for which the precision of a medication’s dosage is of even greater importance than for most medications. Often these drugs are measured in micrograms not milligrams.

In its Guide, the People’s Pharmacy mentioned several popular medications that fall into the NTI category. We researched their prices and found medications on which Canadian online pharmacies offer spectacular savings, often 80%. They wrote about some of our findings in an article this week called: Can you trust Canadian online pharmacies?

As we’ve written before, many Canadian online pharmacies are really international online pharmacies because for years they’ve been partnering with pharmacies in other countries not just filling orders from Canada. But what was interesting about our data on the NTI drugs is that most of the lowest prices were in fact in Canada, not international pharmacies elsewhere.

Expect more in the New Year on how to get to the brand name drug you want at a price you can afford – including a deeper discussion on Narrow Therapeutic Index Drugs.

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Colchicine prices are a rip off in America: Why? How?

drug-price-ripoffTo treat gouty arthritis, patients have been taking a drug called Colchicine for over 200 years. Apparently, it’s a very helpful drug, but it’s neither new or innovative, to say the least. It’s no longer under patent protection and is available as a generic medication. It’s supposed to be super cheap, right?

So why is the estimated cash price for Colchicine .6mg at Walgreens about $590 for 100 pills?! Even with a Colchicine discount coupon it’s $239.37 – about $2.40 per pill. Compare that with the lowest cost Colchicine sold at a PharmacyChecker-verified international online pharmacy, 41 cents per pill or $41 for 100 pills – about 90% less than the Walgreens retail price! And just to be clear that’s a Canadian pharmacy price.

You can compare Colchicine prices at local U.S. pharmacies and international online pharmacies on PharmacyChecekr.com.com.

Yes, this is an example of drug companies AND U.S. pharmacies having free reign to charge whatever they want. For brand drugs on patent that often leads to exceedingly high prices because the pharmaceutical company has a monopoly: there’s no competition. But for generic drugs there is supposed to be competition to bring down the price. What went wrong with Colchicine? (more…)

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A Great Read for Americans Who Want to Know What the Heck is Going in With Drug Prices!

...about the high cost of meds.

…about the high cost of meds.

For those who want a comprehensive but straightforward explanation about why drug prices are incredibly higher in the U.S. than in other countries, I strongly recommend reading in VOX, “The true story of America’s sky-high prescription drug prices.

Many of you know that in other countries, such as Australia and Canada, government agencies negotiate with pharmaceutical companies through myriad policy interventions to keep prescription drugs affordable for their citizens. This article explains how that’s done, why it works – but also identifies the tradeoffs where in some cases a new drug is not available outside the U.S. because regulators decide it doesn’t offer additional value over existing drugs.

It also addresses the issue of how research and development to find new drugs may be negatively affected if the U.S. institutes more control over drug prices. Some people argue that broader access to currently available drugs at lower prices means fewer new breakthrough drugs coming to market. [EDIT 12/9/2016: I wanted to make clear that many people do not agree with this position and argue that more drug company profits are spent on marketing and advertising than on research and development and the pharmaceutical industry greatly exaggerates the prospects of less innovation due to drug price controls].

In speaking with lots of people on different sides of the political spectrum and with contrasting governing philosophies — everyone agrees that us Americans are getting a bad deal on drug prices right now. This VOX piece really speaks to the issues at hand, objectively and truthfully, and if you’re interested in “getting it” you should read it.

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