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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Dr. Patel: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back DayNot only is October American Pharmacists Month, a time to recognize pharmacists for the great care they provide to communities, but October 27th is also the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

The day is designed to highlight a program that provides a safe and responsible method for patients to discard prescription medications from their homes and learn more about the risk of abuse with controlled prescription medications. The DEA website has a collection site locator, where Americans can find the exact location to discard their medications safely. The website also has a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services locator, it’s confidential and helps individuals find resources in their area.

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Online Pharmacies Did Not Fuel the Opioid Crisis

Fuel Opioid CrisisThe role of the Internet as a channel to obtain and misuse prescription narcotics is tiny.

A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blamed the Internet for 0.1% (one tenth of 1%) of all narcotic abuse. That data was from 2015. The latest such report, which is called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has new data from 2017 that doesn’t even have a category for the Internet.

It’s hard to tell if the new number is lower or higher than 0.1%. While 0.1% appears to be statistically insignificant, people have died buying narcotic prescription drugs online and all channels of abuse need to be addressed.

Drug Companies Want to Hide Lower Drug Prices from Americans

On the other hand, drug companies are lobbying Congress to crackdown on Internet companies about opioids, but what they really want is for Americans to stop using the Internet to access lower prescription drug prices from Canada and other countries. In fact, drug giant Eli Lilly wants to censor the Internet by removing Canadian online pharmacies from Google search results in the U.S. Let’s address opioid sales online with a scalpel, not a sledge hammer. More importantly, let’s put resources into treatment and use law enforcement where it’s most needed.

According to the government’s survey, of the 11.1 million people who misused prescription opioids, here’s how they obtained them: 53.1% from a friend or relative; 36.6% from a doctor’s prescription; 5.7% from a drug dealer; and 4.6% some other way.

Channels of Obtaining Prescription Opioids for Misuse

I don’t know why SAMHSA removed the Internet as a category but believe there are two possible answers:

One, the internet channel was statistically insignificant.

Two, the incredibly small percentage, 0.1%, did not fit the agenda of the pharmaceutical industry to blame the Internet for illegally obtained prescription narcotics.

The data showing that only 0.1% of Americans who abuse opioids get them online doesn’t justify the major crackdown on the Internet desired by the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes, drug companies can lobby Congress and federal agencies to have questions removed and added to research on matters that affect them. The FDA has never reported a person seriously sickened or killed by buying medicine internationally from an online pharmacy that requires a prescription. The safest international online pharmacies don’t sell opioid medicine or any controlled drugs.

What does the category “some other way” account for according to SAMHSA?

Some other way includes write-in responses not already listed in this table or responses with insufficient information that could allow them to be placed in another category.”

That means they didn’t ask about the Internet, but people may have written it in. I’ll update this post when I find out more about it.

Consumer Advocacy

As drug companies continue to pressure Congress about stopping personal drug importation by censoring the Internet, it’s important for consumer advocates to stay on top of this data. As I wrote last week, if you look closely, the law, ironically, defends personal drug importation – even if it’s technically illegal.

Let’s beat the opioid crisis without stopping people from safe personal drug importation of non-opioid, non-controlled products.

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Warning About Buying EpiPen Online to Deal with Shortages

EpiPen ShortageEpiPen, the emergency epinephrine auto-injector medicine, is in short supply in the U.S. and other countries, such as the U.K. and Canada. Now, parents of kids who need to carry around EpiPen Jr. are not just worried about the cost of EpiPen but if they can get it at all. If you are considering buying EpiPen online, here’s my warning:

Only Buy EpiPen from Verified Online Pharmacies

When it comes to fast-acting, life-saving products, buying online from a rogue online pharmacy can turn out to be deadly. If you get a fake or expired product, then it might not work. Enough said. The message is clear: do NOT buy from an online pharmacy that isn’t one associated with your neighborhood pharmacy. If you decide to buy online, stick to online pharmacies that are verified. That includes online pharmacies verified by us, PharmacyChecker, or LegitScript, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy VIPPS program, or the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.

You can buy brand-name EpiPen online from Canada using verified online pharmacies: a two pack for about $230.

Buy Generic EpiPen at U.S. Pharmacies

When it comes to cost and availability, you may not have to look internationally for savings. In the U.S., there’s a generic version made by the same company that makes the brand version, and it’s much less expensive. According to GoodRx, you can buy the generic with a discount coupon for almost half the price of the brand-name sold at Canadian online pharmacies: $125. The brand version in the U.S. is over $600!

Where are all the EpiPens?

According to Market Watch, manufacturing problems are causing EpiPen supply problems. The generic drug company, Mylan, has the license to market and sell EpiPen in the U.S. and Canada, but the brand-name drug company, Pfizer, owns and runs the plant that makes the drug. To make a very long story short, the FDA has cited problems with Pfizer’s protocols for assembling the drug. Pfizer is trying to up its game, but the process is taking some time.

There are epinephrine alternatives to EpiPen, brand and generic. They include Adrenally and Auvi-Q, which might be more affordable. Consumer Reports has a good article on these products, although I’m not sure about their current availability.

The Market Watch article suggests that you can still get the product, but they make it seem a lot more challenging than it should be. If you choose to buy it online, whether for availability or cost, stick to verified sites.

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PharmacyChecker Policy on Buying Insulin from Canada is Stricter than U.S. Safety Standards

I write this post about insulin with ambivalence and frustration, but also hope. The diabetes patient and activist community is rightfully seething, screaming at the top of their lungs about high insulin costs in America. One young man stands out in my mind. He recently died because he could not afford his insulin, and now his mother bravely speaks out about her son’s death—an example of why drug prices are a national crisis.

In a March article in Insulin Nation, the journalist/editor Audrey Farley and I discussed the issue of buying more affordable insulin online from pharmacies located in Canada and the U.K. She found that many of her readers were doing so and wanted to let them know how to go about it safely.

One carton of Lantus Solostar (5 pens of 3ml each), a long-acting insulin made by Sanofi Aventis in Germany, goes for about $430 at a CVS in Brooklyn, New York. At Rexall Drugs in Toronto, the price is $84.99. That’s 80% less. Until recently, a small number of Canadian pharmacies in our Verification Program sold it for about $180. The online Canadian price is higher because of the fees associated with special packaging and shipping – but it’s still 56% less than the U.S. price. For those prices, Americans living with diabetes could save a couple of thousand dollars a year; and those who can’t afford it here at all could stay alive.

Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medication and, because of that, requires significant precautions when shipping. To prevent it from degrading requires special packaging. Effective patient communication is also necessary. Because of our recent updates to our refrigerated medications policy, one that places stricter requirements on pharmacies in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, most will likely choose not to sell insulin to Americans— at least not for a while. Here’s why… (more…)

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Big Pharma Forces Women to Choose Between Dry Vaginas or Dry Bank Accounts

Dry Vaginas CommonCosts of products that improve women’s sex lives by treating a dry vagina, a taboo yet common condition, are on the rise here in the U.S. It’s bad enough to face the unfair stigma of needing medication that has anything to do with your vagina, but Big Pharma has decided to make that experience even more difficult. American women deserve to know that those much-needed products are sold at international online pharmacies for a fraction of the price tag at their local pharmacy.

The New York Times’ Katie Thomas recently published an article, Prices Keep Rising for Drugs Treating Painful Sex in Women, that highlighted this quiet conversation in the corner of the drug prices crisis. Your EpiPens and asthma inhalers are perhaps easier to gripe loudly about than meds related to personal matters. “It’s just infuriating that the price has gone up and up and up for no good reason,” said Cynthia Pearson, the executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, who expressed frustration at the lack of attention due to the stigma.

Women have seen prices on drugs, such as Estrace cream and Estring, more than double in the last five years. The article goes on to report that one woman “has resorted to ordering her drug from overseas at a cost of about $80 for a three-month supply,” which is great news for that savvy lady, but unfortunately leaves the reader hanging on how to safely order their own medication from abroad. After all, shopping for medications online can be quite treacherous: the internet is a landmine of scammers and sellers of counterfeit medication. Peer-reviewed and independent research demonstrates that when consumers use PharmacyChecker-verified pharmacies to buy medications purchased online, they receive lawfully-manufactured, high-quality medication. Not to mention those meds are typically sold at a much lower price than available at local U.S. pharmacies.

Vagifem sold in the U.S., mentioned in the article, is actually manufactured in Denmark. At U.S. pharmacies, just 8 tablets of Vagifem 10 mcg can cost women around $200, but it’s sold at international online pharmacies for as low as $20, a 90% savings. Premarin Vaginal Cream is a whopping 98% cheaper if women order through an online pharmacy in the United Kingdom that’s been verified by PharmacyChecker. Premarin sold in the U.S. is manufactured in Canada.

Vagina may be a stigmatized word, but saving money on meds? Now, that’s something to shout about.

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Why Patient Safety is My Primary Focus

Dr. Shivam Patel, PharmacyChecker.comDear PharmacyCheckers,

I have seen, first-hand, the impact on patients due to rising medication costs. As a former community pharmacist in Massachusetts, my patients wouldn’t hesitate in expressing their shock at outrageous costs. I’d often hear a “Why do my meds cost so much?!” or “I’m certain I paid less for this last month.” Sadly, there wasn’t much I could do to help these patients. Some would reluctantly break their budgets to continue on with their drug therapy, while a heartbreaking majority would assure me they would be back with the money… and never return.

I am joining PharmacyChecker because it is my hope that I can lessen the number of these stressful situations for patients. I desire for patients to focus on getting better and staying healthy instead of worrying about how they will afford their medications. Throughout my pharmacy career, patient safety has always been the primary focus, and I relish the opportunity to bring that focus to PharmacyChecker. (more…)

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