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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Rural Areas Can Benefit from International Online Pharmacies

Rural america, far from pharmacies I’m from a small town outside of Houston, Texas called Wallis. To my New Yorker friends, Wallis may appear “rural,” but, with a trip downtown clocking in at 35 minutes on sprawling Texas tollways, it’s not exactly that far from essential medication, not to mention some of the nation’s best hospitals. Despite slipping in some not-so-sneaky boasting, I’m concerned about the millions of Americans who live in rural areas who cannot access the prescription medications they need.

For years, rural residents in the U.S. have faced even greater obstacles to health care than their urban friends, and that includes problems (more…)

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Pfizer Continues to Push Viagra Without a Prescription

Pfizer wants to sell Viagra to you without you having to go to your doctor to get a prescription first. Sorry Yanks—this only applies to our friends that live in the United Kingdom, but this is absolutely of interest to us Americans because of Pfizer’s history with misleading public information campaigns surrounding sildenafil citrate (the generic name for Viagra). Those campaigns scare people from lower-cost Viagra available online.

But why? The per pill cost of Viagra today is as high as $75/100 mg pill. That’s $450 for just six pills! If you look hard, you can find it for just under $60 at your local U.S. pharmacy. In Canada, it’s as low as about $11; New Zealand about $9. Compare Viagra prices available online from pharmacies that do require your prescription.

Now that you understand Pfizer’s financial interest in trying to make sure Americans buy locally, let’s talk about prescription requirements and Viagra.

Pfizer has spent considerable sums of money fighting online sales of Viagra in the name of protecting patients from getting counterfeit drugs and has warned consumers not to buy it without a prescription. That media narrative scares men from buying lower-cost, genuine Viagra online. This includes from online pharmacies that do require a valid prescription. I’ve told this Viagra truth before.

But where does Pfizer really stand on the prescription requirement? (more…)

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Diabetics Out in Full Force to Rock the Big Pharma Boat – #insulin4all

There is profound frustration and anger reverberating throughout the diabetic community due to the skyrocketing prices of insulin in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi are charging out-of-reach prices for insulin medications necessary for diabetics’ survival.

On September 9th, 2017, over forty people gathered outside of Eli Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis to make a statement on behalf of American citizens living with diabetes and, in actuality, all Americans who face the highest drug prices in the world.

(more…)

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New Analysis Shows Almost Six Million Americans 65 and Older Skip Meds Annually Due to Cost

At the beginning of this year, Prescription Justice, the non-profit organization I founded, released an analysis showing that about 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription in 2016 due to cost. We derived that figure by looking at 2016 survey data by the Commonwealth Fund, a research organization dedicated to healthcare policy. Its international survey showed that 18% of the adult population in the U.S. did not fill a prescription due to cost. The UK’s rate was nine times lower at 2%.

Last week, I came across new information that showed about six million Americans of Medicare age were included among the 45 million. A new cross-sectional study of Commonwealth Fund international survey data from 2014 shows the percentage of older adults, 55 and up, that do not take medication because of drug prices. People in 11 high-income countries—22,532 overall—were asked if they had gone without prescribed medications in the past year because of cost.

In the U.S., 16.8% of 1593 people said yes.

For those 65 and older the percentage was 12%.

U.S. Census data from July of 2016 shows that there are about 48 million Americans 65 and older.

That means 5.8 million Americans, 65 and older, forgo taking their meds due to cost.

For international comparison: the percentage of older people skipping medications due to prices in the UK was 3.1%. In France, it was only 1.6%.

Sadly, it was quite high in Canada and Australia: 8.3%, and 6.8%, respectively.

The academic, medical term for such medication skipping because of prices is called cost-related nonadherence (CRNA). It’s a serious public health issue, one in which Americans end up getting sicker, going to the emergency room, or dead solely because they can’t pay for medications. As we move into the season when Medicare beneficiaries pick Part D plans, we’ll continue to look at how our oldest citizens are affected by high drug prices. But it’s clear that Medicare pharmacy benefits are falling far short of what is needed. While price should not block ANYONE from essential medications, the fact that so many millions of our oldest citizens who need their prescribed meds the most are forced to go without is disgusting.

 

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Buying Insulin in Canada Without a Prescription (BTC)

With insulin prices skyrocketing, no wonder the diabetic community is taking to social media to network and share their experiences as they swap tips and tricks not only for moral support, but also financial.

This month, we received an interesting consumer comment via our Facebook page asking if we knew that Americans are driving to Canada to buy insulin without a prescription. Well, no. As our primary focus is mail-order pharmacy, it wasn’t on our radar. Nevertheless, it sparked our interest and we’d like to share our findings with the PharmacyChecker community.

After calling 20 pharmacies across Canada (specifically in the following cities: Québec City, Toronto, Alberta, Victoria, Winnipeg and Regina) the answer is clear: Americans can obtain insulin without a prescription in Canada. All pharmacists that I called reported—rather matter-of-factly—that you do not need a prescription for any insulin product, which would include Lantus Solostar, Humalog and Levemir. We specifically talked about Lantus Solostar, a popular, long-acting insulin. The price in Canada for a three-month supply of Lantus Solostar (3 ml) is currently around $447.00 while the average retail price in the U.S. is a staggering $1,160.39. Apparently, they practice what they preach: all patients—including Americans—do not need a prescription to obtain insulin in Canada. While a prescription is not needed, the drugs are available only from the pharmacist and must be retained within an area of the pharmacy where there is no public access and no opportunity for patient self-selection (also known in the U.S. as Behind the Counter (BTC).

There are some important nuances about insulin sales in Canada that might interest you. To start, insulin is not on the Health Canada Prescription Drug List. Health Canada—the regulatory agency in Canada that is comparable to the FDA in the United States—lists insulin as a Schedule II drug. The word “schedule” in the U.S. is used to identify those medications associated with greater potential for addiction, such as Ambien or Vicodin (a prescription opiate) and other controlled substnaces. The lexicon is confusingly different in Canada and important to explain here! In Canada, Schedule II drugs, while not as strictly regulated, do still require professional intervention from the pharmacist at the point of sale and possibly a referral to a practitioner. Click here for the drug schedules regulations in British Columbia.

And did you know that when you’re crossing the border, the U.S. Customs Border Patrol (CBP) is not allowed to stop the importation of FDA-approved medication from Canada for personal use – even though it’s technically prohibited? See: Public Law 115-31. Now you know!

Something to keep in mind for those Americans ordering medications from Canada (or from any other country) through a PharmacyChecker-verified online pharmacy: you must have a prescription if a prescription is required in the United States even if one is not required elsewhere!

So, in practice, insulin products can be sold in Canada without a prescription after consultation with a pharmacist. Sound great? It is! Nevertheless, be sure to give that friendly Canadian pharmacist a call to make sure they can help you before filling up your tank for that road trip to Toronto.

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President Trump’s Tweet Against Merck CEO Detracts from His Own Inaction on Drug Prices

President Trump’s Tweet Against Merck CEO Detracts from His Own Inaction on Drug Prices

This week, Merck’s CEO, Kenneth Frazier, resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in protest over the president’s initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA. White supremacist groups came together to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who headed the Confederate Army, and counter-protesters clashed this past Saturday. During the events, a self-affiliating white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19. The president condemned the violence but made it seem as if both sides, white supremacists and counter-protesters, were equally to blame, which is wrong. Mr. Frazier believed that President Trump should have forcefully and clearly criticized white supremacists.

I strongly agree with and applaud Mr. Frazier’s action. However, I felt compelled to write about this issue because President Trump mocked Mr. Frazier on Twitter about high drug prices. He wrote: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Mr. Frazier, the son of a hardworking janitor, worked his way up to his current position. He is also African American. For obvious and good reasons, he took a stand. But Mr. Frazier is also CEO of a Big Pharma company and not interested in lower drug prices.

President Trump is the one who needs to act, and President Trump is the one who can lower drug prices.

Trump supported legalizing importation of lower cost medications during his presidential campaign. It was one of his few positions that has wide, bi-partisan public support. He has the executive authority, via the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to expressly permit personal drug importation now.

Now is the time to use that authority.

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