PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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PharmacyChecker Online Pharmacy Authentication Role Recognized in OECD/EU Report on Counterfeit Drugs

When I read fancy-looking international reports that address the problem of counterfeit drugs, too seldom is our work recognized in verifying international online pharmacies in a manner that saves the lives of consumers looking online for affordable medicine. To some extent, that’s because the global pharmaceutical industry is often a major data source for these reports. But a joint effort between the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)” recently recognized PharmacyChecker in a report on counterfeit drugs called “Illicit Trade: Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products.” Under the sub-section “Online Pharmacy Authentication,” PharmacyChecker is mentioned as a free resource for consumers to identify trustworthy online pharmacies:

“PharmacyChecker is a free-to-consumer online service which produces reports on the credentials, prices and customer feedback of online pharmacies, focusing mainly on the United States and Canada. It is designed to help users identify reputable and trustworthy businesses. The site publishes a list containing the web addresses and business names of what it considers to be disreputable, dishonest and/or illegal online medicine trade sites.”

It should be clarified that, although our consumer advocacy and writing are focused on Americans, PharmacyChecker online pharmacy accreditation and pricing are there for global consumption.

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EpiPen Malfunctions and High Prices are an American-made Problem

This week, the FDA issued an alert that the EpiPen, a brand name epinephrine injection that should help someone having a serious allergic reaction, might not work properly. The problems include delayed injection, failure to inject, and difficulty removing the product from its container to commence an injection. If this drug fails to work on a patient who is in anaphylactic shock, the result can be death. In fact, such product failures were reported to have killed seven people in 2017 and led to 35 hospitalizations.

Warnings about bad drugs or medical products are often associated with imports, such as from India or China – or buying drugs online. But here we have a homegrown problem, which we actually export.

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U.S. Pharmacy Chains Harm Patients With Medication Errors; NABP Appears Silent

When you go to your local CVS and Walgreens – and other big pharmacy chains – are you getting the highest standard of care? Or do they care more about the billions of dollars in profits they make each year and how to increase those profits? Have these pharmacies gone rogue? Millions of medication errors have caused illness and death in America – and this problem has recently come into greater focus as pharmacists increasingly blow the whistle on their employers.

Yet the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to medication errors at U.S. pharmacies. Instead, they choose to spend their time “educating” the public about the dangers of prescription drug importation, warning Americans that it’s not safe to buy lower-cost medicines from other countries over the Internet. They have even included PharmacyChecker.com and this very blog (!) on a list of over 12,000 “Not Recommended Sites” – websites that they have categorized as safety threats from importation that put people and their families at risk. We have sued them for defamation and antitrust violations. 

Here’s proof that the NABP are paying relatively little attention to medication errors compared to internet pharmacies. On the NABP’s website, under the category of Medication Errors, you’ll see seven posts and nothing since 2015. Under the category Internet Pharmacies, you’ll find 122 posts.

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Can you trust Turkey-approved Alipza? Is it the same as U.S.-Approved Livalo?

This post is mostly a story about a very well manufactured, safe and effective, foreign version of an FDA-approved drug. These drugs are normally far less expensive than the FDA-approved version sold in the U.S. and arguably just as safe. The FDA can prevent the importation of such drugs – but the agency is actually encouraged by law not to do so if the import is for personal use only. It’s also a story about consumers and their providers navigating conflicting public information about buying less expensive medicines online from foreign countries.

A friend of mine, who has very difficult to control cholesterol, was prescribed Livalo, an FDA-approved brand of the drug pitavastatin. Let’s call him John. With his insurance, Livalo still costs John about $310 for a three-month supply – about 90 pills. He doesn’t want to pay that much if he can help it. John knows about our company, PharmacyChecker. He went to our site to discover that brand-name Livalo (pitavastatin) costs only $90 for a three-month supply at the lowest-cost PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacy: a savings of 71%. That wasn’t enough to convince John to move forward with the purchase. Why not? That brand-name pitavastatin, sold in Turkey, is sold under the name Alipza – not Livalo.

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Through the Looking Glass: Is FDA really the “Gold Standard” in Drug Safety?

Canada believes it is too small to facilitate U.S. wholesale importation of lower-cost drugs. This post will explore a much greater potential for importation from the European Union.

Opponents of Americans buying less expensive drugs from overseas pharmacies (i.e. personal importation) often rely on the common belief that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exemplifies the “gold standard” in drug safety. This “gold standard” importation talking point from the Pharmaceutical and Researchers of America (PhRMA) fuels Americans’ fear of ordering medication internationally despite proof that importation can be very safe and provide financial relief and better adherence to prescriptions:

“The United States is the gold standard when it comes to regulating the safety of our medicine supply. Importing medicines from countries that do not have our same strong standards could taint our medicine supply.”

The first sentence is something you are supposed to take at face value. The second sentence is deceptively broad: as in, yes, importing medicines from countries that do not have our “same” standards could taint our medicine supply. Not necessarily, but it could.

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Immigrants Buying Meds on the Street: A Problem of High Drug Prices and Fears of Deportation

A lot of media coverage about counterfeit drug threats in the U.S. are spurred by the media relations efforts of organizations funded by pharmaceutical companies, such as the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and Partnership for Safe Medicines. As I see it, their public education efforts conflate safe online sales of medicines imported by consumers in the U.S. with counterfeit drug sales and other forms of drug sales, ones that clearly harm patients. One such article that did not fall prey to the propaganda was published in Kaiser Health News’ California Healthline detailing street market sales of prescription drugs, including cases that involve counterfeit drugs and the dangers they pose. Journalists who are looking closely, checking the funding of organizations disseminating information about prescription drug importation, can help stop the propaganda of the pharmaceutical industry.

The Kaiser story, written by John M. Glionna, focuses on Latino immigrant communities in which people can’t afford medication or, due to their immigration status, are fearful of deportation if they go to federally-funded clinics for medical treatments. Eight people were arrested and charged with illegal street sales of prescription drugs, including injectables and controlled drugs. Glionna describes the LA County authorities report:

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