PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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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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The Myth of the Closed U.S. Drug Distribution System

By way of the craftiest of PR snakes, pharmaceutical companies infest the media, politicians, and consumers with the idea that if we expressly permit people to buy lower-cost medications from other countries, we break the “closed” pharmaceutical distribution system. This concept of a “closed” system is sadly overplayed and misleading.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the leading drug regulatory authorities, but as the pharmaceutical industry continues its propagandistic efforts against legalizing importation of lower-cost medication, the myth making has got to be called out.  You’ll have to forgive me for the lengthy post: I’ve chosen to include long quotes from experts—perhaps to offset my frustrated tone—but mostly to properly inform you what we’re up against.

The fact is, you can trust the safety and efficacy of medications sold in the U.S., but NOT more so than Canada or many other countries. People are not paying attention to the perpetual lies Big Pharma regurgitates on this issue. In a follow-up post, I’m going to discuss myriad ways that the FDA is doing a much better job, but, for the moment, excuse me while I blow off sufficient “What-the-hell-is-going-on?!” steam. (more…)

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Imported Medications From Credentialed Online Pharmacies Are “So Safe”

Getting the truth about Online Pharmacies

The economist and drug safety expert Roger Bate, PhD, affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, published a short article this week, the title of which says it all: “Credentialed online pharmacies are so safe that peer review literature is no longer interested in results showing it.” The gist is that he and colleagues have been testing medications for several years, since 2008, as mystery shoppers ordering online domestically here in the U.S. and internationally for import. The research shreds the myths of the drug companies by presenting peer-reviewed data to derive what are called “facts” about the Internet and importation. The main fact proved is that importing medications, ones ordered online, can be equally safe as U.S. pharmacies.

In the studies from 2008-2016, 822 online medication orders were tested: 275 medications from 22 international online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com (12 of which are also verified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association); 127 medications from eight U.S.-only online pharmacies verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and/or LegitScript.com, and the rest from websites with no verification.

Verified U.S. pharmacies sold zero counterfeits but one (out of 127) order of generic Cipro was substandard. Verified international pharmacies sold zero counterfeits but one (out of 275) order of generic Cipro was substandard. On a percentage basis, the PharmacyChecker.com-verified websites performed best (but that’s nitpicking). And for those of you thinking, well, one was substandard…that same medication is available at your local Walgreens or CVS. Read the research.

In contrast, online pharmacies with no verification (Dr. Bate calls it “credentialing”) sold eight counterfeits and 16 substandard drugs (out of 332 tested).

How about prices? When it came to brand name drug prices, the studies showed that credentialed international pharmacies were about 60% cheaper. (more…)

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Minority Communities Needing Better Healthcare Means Highlighting Safe and Affordable Online Pharmacies

Amidst Washington’s vapid attempt at “solving” healthcare, Americans continue dealing with the everyday obstacles that come with prioritizing our families’ health, and all the while, prescription drug costs just keep rising. Minority communities are particularly at risk.

The crisis of rising drug costs expands beyond minority groups, but studies show that Hispanics are more likely to forgo filling a prescription due to cost than the population at large. Worse, as immigrants increasingly fear leaving their homes, undocumented immigrants will be less likely to get needed medications. Wherever you stand on the immigration issue, this trend is unacceptable and must be combatted by educating all people about lower cost drugs available abroad, but some people are getting this wrong…

In a recent op-ed written by Garfield Clunie and Richard Williams and published in Morning Consult, a well-meaning yet dangerous claim is made—that “if [Congress permits the importation of prescription medicines from other countries], the United States government will actually be promoting the use of counterfeit and unsafe medications.”  This is simply false. (more…)

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International Online Pharmacy Verification Due Diligence

PharmacyChecker Verification Program Protects Public Health

Americans and consumers worldwide come to PharmacyChecker.com to find pharmacies that will sell them properly dispensed, genuine medication, at a price they can afford.

We take our role very seriously and continually improve and enhance our program to keep up with changes in the marketplace.

For those who are interested, I’m happy to announce today that we have published our latest program documentation that effectively communicates our most current standards, policies and online pharmacy practice guidance on how to meet those standards. In reviewing our protocols, consumers, healthcare providers and advocates, and policy professionals can more fully understand why websites “approved” in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program are the safest international online pharmacies: as safe as U.S. pharmacies, according to peer-reviewed research and medication testing.

You can review our full set of PharmayChecker.com standards for verifying online pharmacies here. Below are some of the key attributes of our program and standards. (more…)

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New Study Shows International Online Pharmacies Are Safe As U.S. Pharmacies If Verified By PharmacyChecker.com

Properly Verified International Online Pharmacies Sell Genuine and Safe Medication

Last month, Roger Bate, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and head of the Safe Medicines Coalition, published the results of a study which tested and compared the quality of drugs purchased from online pharmacies in the U.S. and abroad, including pharmacies verified by third-parties and those not verified. The findings were clear: PharmacyChecker-approved international online pharmacies sell medications of comparable quality to U.S. online pharmacies verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and LegitScript.

In fact, overall, the results were better for PharmacyChecker-verified pharmacies than for those verified by NABP and LegitScript. Results were dramatically worse for pharmacies with no third-party verification. The drug testing focused on generic versions of Lipitor (atorvastatin) and of generic Cipro (ciprofloxacin), which were ordered from the online pharmacies by the researchers. (more…)

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