It’s a national disgrace that this Thanksgiving Americans will go without medication because prices are too high. First Coast News in Jacksonville, FL, and other ABC local stations, teamed up to report on the continuing crisis of high drug prices. Its opening is chilling: “In living rooms and kitchens across the First Coast, families are choosing between food and vital medicine.”
The report notes that prescription drug spending is much higher in the United States than in other rich countries. Why? “Well, other countries directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of their citizens.” And that explains why Americans are buying medications from outside the U.S., despite the federal restrictions. They are cheaper overseas.
Today I’m not feeling like just slamming Big Pharma and drug companies for their greed. On the heels of this bizarre national election, it’s our elected leaders who need to feel the heat. President Elect Donald Trump states: “Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.” It’s one of the few things that Americans, Right, Left and Center, would agree on.
Tagged with: food or medicine, thanksgiving, trump
Synthroid is the brand name for a medication called levothyroxine, which is manufactured by drug company Abbvie in the U.S. and Mylan in Canada. It treats hypothyroidism, as well as enlarged thyroid gland and thyroid cancer. Synthroid sells for about $100 for a three-month supply in the U.S. compared to $32 in Canada. Over the course of a year, since this is a maintenance medication, the annual costs are $400 vs. $128. You compare Synthroid brand prices here. This is a very popular drug: about 23 million prescriptions are written monthly for Synthroid. For Americans who do not have insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover Synthroid, buying it from Canada means real savings. But will they be getting the exact same drug?
After all, there are generic versions of levothyroxine sold in the U.S. that cost even less than Synthroid in Canada: $10 at Walmart for a three-month supply. For most medications (but there are exceptions) your best bet is the lower cost U.S. generic compared to a higher cost brand drug internationally. In the U.S., the FDA affirms that approved generics are bioequivalent to the brands, meaning the active ingredient has the same rate and extent of absorption in the bloodstream (for all intents and purposes they are the same). But for some medications, especially those with a narrow therapeutic index, your provider may not want you to take a generic. Medications with a narrow therapeutic index have a narrow range between the drug’s risks and its benefits and small differences in dose or blood concentration may matter, meaning it’s more critical that the amount of pharmaceutical ingredient is precise and delivered correctly through the bloodstream. But what about brand products of the same medication made in different countries? (more…)
Tagged with: AbbVie, levothyroxine, mylan, Synthroid
Jublia (efinaconazole topical solution 10%) was approved for use in treating toenail fungal infections in 2014. The company which distributes it in the U.S., Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, has a history of charging astronomical prices for its drugs and the situation is no different for Jublia. A 4 ml bottle (enough to treat one toe daily for a month) has a cash price of about $649, and even with easily available discounts, it costs about $550. It will likely be many years before a less expensive generic version is available in the U.S.
So how can you get Jublia at an even lower price? First, Valeant offers steep discounts for those first trying Jublia. As of the time of this writing (10/10/15), if you have insurance which covers Jublia, Valeant will reduce your co-pay for either the 4 ml or 8 ml bottles to just $25, or to $75 if the drug is not covered by your drug plan. If you have no insurance, the discounted price is $125 for the 4 ml bottle, or $200 for the 8 ml bottle. You can get 11 refills at this price (but just one refill if your drug plan does not cover Jublia).
Jublia is sold in other countries at much lower prices than in the U.S. In fact, in Canada, Valeant Pharmaceuticals distributes Jublia at prices far lower than those in the U.S. Many Americans get their prescription medications from outside the U.S. to save money and, although this is not technically legal, individuals are not prosecuted for importing small quantities of medication for personal use. Outside the U.S., Jublia is sold in a larger quantity – 6 ml and 12 ml bottles. Currently, you can get a 6 ml bottle for as little as $95 (plus about $10 shipping) from any of any of several PharmacyChecker.com verified international pharmacies which dispense the medication from licensed pharmacies. This international online price is the equivalent of getting 4 ml for about $67 – more than an 80% discount off the standard U.S. price.
Tagged with: jublia, Valeant
What Americans think about drug prices…
A new poll by Kaiser Family Foundation found that 44 million Americans find it difficult to afford medication. Also, 77% of Americans believe drug prices are unreasonable, up from 72% last year. On the other hand, most Americans did not have trouble affording their medications. Of the 55% of Americans who take medication, 73% say they can afford them, 26% say that its’ difficult. (I’m not sure why that doesn’t round to 100%).
Overwhelming majorities of Americans support policies, legislative reforms in most cases, to bring down prescription drug prices and have access lower cost medications from Canada. The most popular policy would be forcing pharmaceutical companies to be transparent about their pricing of medication. The next two most favored policies are allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and expanding personal importation of lower cost medication from Canada.
The Kaiser Poll was a nationally representative random survey of 1204 adults living in the U.S. Public and voter opinions on drug prices are just one part of the survey, albeit the main one: but the poll also covers voter opinions and data about health insurance generally, Obamacare, premiums, and deductibles.
The Kaiser Poll has very interesting political analyses relating to how a person will vote in the upcoming presidential election and the candidates’ positions on prescription drug costs and other healthcare issues. If interested, the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are summed up on the blog of Prescription Justice. Both Clinton and Trump support expanding access to lower cost imported medications through personal importation, but Clinton has a much more ambitious plan, which is very much congruous with public opinion among Democratic and Republican voters.
Tagged with: Kaiser, poll
In a Congressional hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform earlier this week, lawmakers articulated their disgust and moral outrage at the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Heather Bresch for increasing the cost of Epipen from $100 in 2009 to over $600 today. Another target of scorn, mostly by Republicans, was an FDA representative who had the pleasure of sitting next to Ms. Bresch. He was grilled because of the backlog of generic drug applications yet to be approved. If the FDA would just move faster in approving medications competition in the marketplace would work – so the argument goes. Blah, blah, blah. In my Letter to the Editor of the NYT three weeks ago I wrote:
Stories about kids without EpiPen will be the focus of congressional inquiries, replete with the requisite Big Pharma bashing with tirades about drug company greed. It was just a year ago that Congress bashed Turing Pharmaceuticals’ overnight increase of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Congress raged and roared, but what has been accomplished?
And here we go again. What has been done?!
As I watched most of this Congressional hearing and started to not feel so well, I remembered something Hillary Clinton said: “It’s time to move beyond talking about these price hikes and start acting to address them. All Americans deserve full access to the medications they need — without being burdened by excessive, unjustified costs.” As part of Hillary Clinton’s new plan to tackle such situations, she recommends “emergency importation of safe treatments.”
What an amazing idea! Clinton may already know that millions of Americans have taken matters into their own hands by importing safe medications for personal use using verified online pharmacies. For many it was an emergency of high drug prices. Here at PharmacyChecker, in the absence of government action, we’re providing verifications and price comparisons of online pharmacies for those parents who can’t afford Epipen for their kids and other medications for themselves. It’s an emergency.
The price of the life-saving injection epinephrine, which is prescribed for people with serious allergies, is out of control, surging by 480% since 2009, CBS News reports. But American parents are actually choosing to forgo buying it because of the cost. Enough! For EpiPen Jr, the brand usually prescribed to kids, the lowest price U.S. option found on GoodRx is $614 for a package of two. The lowest price for two injections at a PharmacyChecker.com-approved online pharmacy is just over $200. That means a potential $400 – 66% – savings. Much more than the numbers: for some parents this is the difference between buying or not buying a medication that can save their kid’s life.
By Intropin (Own work), Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons [(CC BY 3.0)]
I’m a parent and this makes me sick and angry. But what will doubly disgust me today is if I read some Pharma-funded bull about unsafe medication in other countries that might scare a parent away from lower cost Epinephrine. This is life and death for kids. Only the truth is acceptable. The EpiPen Jr is marketed by generic drug giant Mylan in the U.S. But lower cost options internationally are either manufactured or licensed by Pfizer, the drug’s innovator, which should take the wind out of the sails of bogus arguments about “foreign drugs.”
Tagged with: Big Pharma, EpiPen, international online pharmacies