PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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The Walgreens UK Pharmacy Connection and Importation

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) says that foreign pharmacies who sell to Americans over the Internet, due to lack of regulation and counterfeit drugs, are dangerous. I have one question: Would that include their own pharmacies in the United Kingdom? After all, Internet pharmacy in the UK is regulated.

The NACDS is not an objective observer on this issue. As I see it, it is in cahoots with Big Pharma in sowing what is blatant misinformation about prescription drug importation and international online pharmacies. See myths and facts. For big U.S. pharmacy chains, lower prices from international pharmacies are a commercial threat.

One of NACDS’s principal members is most commonly referred to as Walgreens, but you should start calling it by the name of its main corporation, Walgreens-Boots Alliance. Why? In the United Kingdom, Boots has been in the pharmaceutical business for 165 years and is that country’s largest distributor of pharmacy products. You can bet that Walgreens-Boots is selling the same medication in the UK at a much lower cost than here in America.

For example, Januvia 100mg (sitagliptin), which treats type 2 diabetes, costs $1508.99 for 90 pills at Walgreens in Brooklyn (I just called). Compare that to $273.60, the price available online from a UK pharmacy, one verified by PharmacyChecker.com. That UK pharmacy is a lifeline of affordable medication to an uninsured American—of which there are still around 28 million—who is prescribed Januvia. (By the way, the “American” Januvia sold in Walgreens is made in the UK). (more…)

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FDA Cannot Ensure the Safety of Medications Purchased from Canadian Pharmacies but can Health Canada?

Mostly.

Let’s get into semantics. The word “ensure” is defined as to secure or guarantee, to make sure or certain, or to make secure or safe, as from harm. I submit that the FDA cannot ensure the safety of Canadian OR U.S. drugs, but that doesn’t mean they are not safe and effective

 

Pharmaceutical Regulation in Canada

The precise communications of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have changed over the years on why it’s illegal for Americans to buy medications from Canada by personally importing them. Often the implication is that the agency cannot “ensure” or “guarantee” the safety of medications sold in Canadian pharmacies – and that’s why it’s illegal. Additionally, another reason used by the FDA  is that the drugs sold in Canada may not be approved by the FDA. These are not good arguments against buying lower cost medications from Canada because the Therapeutic Products Directorate of Health Canada, the FDA’s counterpart, is responsible for regulating the prescription drugs sold in Canadian pharmacies. Like the U.S., Canada has very strict rules to help ensure drug safety.

Neither country can guarantee the safety, efficacy and quality of medications in the two countries. However, their regulatory mechanisms have proven more than adequate, if not superior, so that patients buying medications will almost always obtain a properly manufactured medication. (more…)

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“American” Prescription Drugs Are Usually Imported

American medications are usually imported. Now you know.

Yesterday, PharmacyChecker released the findings of our new research that shows 70% of brand name medications sold in U.S. pharmacies are not made in America. Those same medications can be purchased at 70% less in Canada – and even less in other countries. As I’ve written before, there’s a troubling aspect of the public policy debate about drug importation: in many news stories, both policy-oriented and those dedicated to consumers, it seems as if drug importation is currently illegal, which is simply not true. Our data indicates that when Americans walk into their local Walgreens or CVS to fill a prescription, the pharmacist will mostly likely dispense an imported drug – that’s if the patient can actually afford it: 45 million did not fill their prescription last year because of cost.

Our findings come in the wake of an announcement from the Congressional Budget Office about The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017 (S.469), which aims to make it expressly legal to import lower-cost medications from Canada. CBO’s report shows that if S.469 becomes law, it would shave almost $7 billion off the deficit by 2027. We believe the savings would be much greater. The CBO report reflected deficit savings, but did not include the savings that individuals would also realize from buying lower cost medications from Canada. (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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PhRMA Targets PharmacyChecker on Google Ads

This week I’m down in Washington, DC, talking to policy-makers and activists, setting off alarm bells about Big Pharma’s campaign to not only kill prescription importation legislation but also the ability for Americans to currently buy medications from Canada and elsewhere at all. I have a feeling Big Pharma knows I’m here, which is kind of cool (but also freaks me out because they are very powerful and we are not). Here’s the very quick story.

When I searched “pharmacychecker” in Google I noticed the top advertisement was placed by none other than the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (“Big Pharma”). That ad doesn’t show up in Brooklyn where I live but appears targeted in Google to the DC area. They know that our pricing information, verification work we do for patient safety, and advocacy is compelling to some public policy and healthcare advocates down here, so they pay Google to get their message on top. As if Big Pharma’s 1100 lobbyists aren’t enough!

It’s a badge of honor (but there’s no sleep til Brooklyn).

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Brussels Principles promote online access to affordable medication

Principles to guide the Internet community on ethical medication sales

A few months back, I wrote about a panel that I put together as part of my work with PharmacyChecker.com and Prescription Justice, a non-profit group dedicated to ending the crisis of high drug prices in America. The panel was one of hundreds of sessions at the RightsCon Conference in Brussels, an event that brings together Internet freedom, human rights and social justice activists. The panel discussed issues related to buying medication online, Internet freedom, importation and drug affordability – and the negative impact of the pharmaceutical industry on all of the above.

Essentially, drug companies have spent millions of dollars on funding “non-profit” groups, public relations efforts, lobbying Congress and international organizations, Interpol (I kid you not), etc., with the goal of making it hard, if not impossible, for people to buy safe and lower cost medication online from other countries, which include people in America, that can’t afford it locally. Their activities intentionally conflate the intentional sale of counterfeit and substandard drugs with safe international online pharmacies.

The panel was a great step forward in giving the consumer side of this issue a larger voice. The panelists discussed and edited a draft set of principles on medication sales and the Internet. It took a while, but, on June 15, 2017, Knowledge Ecology International and Prescription Justice finalized and endorsed what we’re calling the Brussels Principles, which are published below. (more…)

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