Earlier this week, three U.S. senators sent a letter to the CEO of Tri-Source Pharma, LLC, inquiring about the 1400% drug price spike of cancer pill Lomustine 100mg. Tri-Source owns NextSource Biotechnology, LLC, which markets the drug. Congress wants answers! How could a drug that cost $50/pill in 2013 now cost $768/pill? The answer can be found in a 2013 press release from NextSource Biotechnology: consolidating, rebranding and launching matured and orphaned drugs.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about a drug that was patented in 1976 and first approved by FDA in 1982. The drug had lost its patent protection.
Authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Catherine Cortez Masto (R-NV), the letter asks for sales, expenses, profits, communications, projections, etc. related to the drug Lomustine. That’s all very interesting information and you can read the letter yourself. But I wrote about Lomustine’s price history back in December to point out, among other things, that Lomustine 100mg was (and is) available in Canada and for sale online, for a discount of 97%: $25 per pill compared to $768/pill. Check it out: Lomustine 100mg prices.
At a maximum, if knowing that patients can obtain Lomustine in Canada helps them stay alive then that’s awesome.
At a minimum, this pricing information shows how utterly stupid the price is here in America.
My earlier reporting may also help the senators uncover market manipulation by the very drug companies that are involved. The FDA-approved Lomustine, which is the generic name, that is so expensive here is branded (or better said “rebranded”) as Gleostine. The Health Canada-approved Lomustine is called CeeNu. Until 2013, the lower-cost CeeNu was available in the U.S. by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $50/pill; still twice the Canadian price, but a far cry from $768.
From that 2013 press release by NextSource Biotechnology, we learn that the company’s scheme was to have exclusive distribution of a re-branded and launched drug. When Bristol-Myers Squibb decided to stop making the drug in 2012, the FDA added it to a list of drug shortages in 2013. At the time, compounding pharmacies were making the drug. Those compounded versions are not FDA-approved but are often tolerated when there are shortages. In 2014, the compounding pharmacies were sternly warned by NextSource Biotechnology that they better cut it out because, now that there was an FDA-approved version in town, those compounded versions weren’t welcome anymore and are against FDA regulations.
But, at that time, CeeNu—the exact same product sold in the U.S. until 2013—was being marketed and sold in Canada at a much lower list price by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Unlike the compounded versions, CeeNu was approved by the FDA, meaning there couldn’t possibly be safety differences between the Canadian and U.S. drug. Moreover, both CeeNu and the re-branded Gleostine were made in the exact same plant in Italy by the same manufacturing company, Corden Pharma.
The question I’m left wondering about is whether it’s illegal or not to import CeeNu from Canada. After all, it was an FDA-approved drug and it’s made in the same plant as Gleostine. A label could be attached to meet FDA requirements. There’s no prohibition against importing FDA-approved drugs, people!
Why does Gleostine (lomustine), above, cost 1400% more than…
Lomustine is a medication that treats cancer, which was discovered in 1976. Recently, a drug company bought the rights to market the 100 mg version of Lomustine in the U.S. and increased its price by 1400%. As a result, Americans with brain tumors are now struggling to afford this off-patent drug or simply going without it altogether. They don’t have to because Lomustine is available in Canada. There, Lomustine is marketed under the name “CeeNU” at a 97% discount.
Until 2013, CeeNU was sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Co. and even available at U.S. pharmacies for about $50/pill. Now, made by a company called Corden Pharma Latina SPA, the drug is sold in the United States under the name Gleostine, which is the new – and only – FDA-approved version. Gleostine is distributed by a “start-up” drug company called Next Source Biotechnology LLC, for $768/pill. Yes, this sounds like what Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals did back in 2015 with Daraprim when he jacked the price from $13.50 to $750 a pill.
More than six million Americans suffer from atrial fibulation (AFib), a heart condition that puts them at a much higher risk for blood clots and can cause a stroke. Strokes are most often seen in people over 65, and can lead to paralysis and death.
There are many anticoagulants (blood thinning drugs) used to prevent strokes, Coumadin (warfarin) being one of the oldest and most commonly used. But Coumadin is not right for some people: it can cause heavy internal bleeding and requires regular and frequent blood tests.
One of the newer medications, Eliquis, has been shown to have a lower risk of major bleeding and is better for people suffering from kidney disease. It is also effective as a medication for preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is caused when blood clots form in large veins, usually in the legs, and often in those with restricted mobility, such as people who are recovering from surgery.
But Eliquis can be expensive. If you don’t have insurance or are underinsured and have to pay out-of-pocket, the retail price is around $1,182.00 for a 90 day supply at a local U.S. pharmacy. Americans are at serious risk if they can’t afford this medication, especially seniors who are most likely to suffer a stroke. Despite Medicare Part D coverage, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 13% of poorer Americans over the age of 65 did not take their medication as prescribed.1 And that can put their health and even their lives at risk.
There are ways of reducing the cost of Eliquis (see the table below). If you use a pharmacy discount card, you may be able to get it down to about $1,021 at your local U.S. pharmacy. But that still works out to over $4,080 per year. For many Americans those prices are out of reach. Fortunately, Eliquis 5mg, 90 days’ supply, is only $401.99 using a verified international online pharmacy, a savings of more than $3,100 versus the retail pharmacy price over a year’s time.
If you have AFib, and are prescribed Eliquis by a doctor, it’s vital for you to stay on your medication. Hopefully these price comparisons help you evaluate the best option for your health and savings. If you decide to buy internationally, remember, when using an online pharmacy, makes sure it’s one that’s been verified by PharmacyChecker.com.
For the past three months or so, we’ve published a section a week of our report called “Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation and Public Health.” The report was written to call attention to a woefully flawed and highly misleading report published by the Government Accountability Office about Internet pharmacies and how best to carry out enforcement actions to protect consumers from rogue online pharmacies. Rogue pharmacy websites that endanger public health require serious efforts by regulators and law enforcement personnel, domestically and globally. However, instead of focusing all efforts on the tens of thousands of rouge pharmacy websites polluting the Internet, the federal government and private industry are also targeting the safest international online pharmacies, ones that Americans rely on to obtain affordable medication. Why?
Through this series on our blog, we’ve tried to draw the attention and understanding of our elected leaders and the public-at-large to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry, along with U.S. chain pharmacies, are clearly the ones driving policy, including enforcement priorities when it comes to the issue of online access to safe and affordable medication. In some cases, drug companies are directly funding law enforcement officials. And those companies don’t want Americans obtaining much more affordable and safe medication from pharmacies outside the U.S. And with that, we publish the conclusion to our report. (more…)
Symbicort is one of the most popular medications used for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD affect over 13 million adults in the U.S., and is responsible for over 100,000 deaths annually. Unfortunately, Symbicort is expensive in the U.S. It’s just under $1,000 for a three –month supply at a local pharmacy in New York, and no low-cost generic is available. Though the manufacturer offers 1 free inhaler for a patient’s first prescription, the annual cost of Symbicort would still be around $3,500.
You can reduce your Symbicort costs by as much as 85% by ordering through a verified online international pharmacy, bringing your annual cost down to as little as $552. View our savings comparisons below.
For a list of PharmacyChecker.com approved pharmacies, click here, or view Symbicort prices here.
Prices and Savings on Symbicort 160 mcg/4.5 mcg (3 inhalers, 120 doses per inhaler):
About 30 million Americans take anti-depressants,which mean that their prices greatly impact our national medicine bill. Belonging to a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac are among the most popular brand name antidepressants available. While all three of these medications – and other SSRI’s – are available as generics, if you’re paying out-of-pocket, finding the best price isn’t usually as simple as walking into your local pharmacy…
Generic SSRI’s At My Local Pharmacy
Zoloft and Prozac have been available as generics since 2007 and 2001, respectively. The price for the brands are incredibly high – $558 for 90 pills of Zoloft (100 mg) and $720 for 90 pills of Prozac (10 mg). Luckily, the generic prices are much lower. Generic Zoloft, known as sertraline, is $146.97 at my local pharmacy for 90 pills. Generic Prozac – called fluoxetine – is only $15.99.
The $15.99 for 90 pills (10 mg) of fluoxetine, is a great deal, but it can still be beat!In my research, the price at most brick-and-mortar pharmacies using a drug coupon was between $15 and $17.Oneeven better price was through a U.S.-based online pharmacy, where it was $9.50 for 90 pills.
The real savings comes in the search for generic Zoloft. There is absolutely no need to pay $146.97 for 90 pills (100 mg), the price mentioned above at mylocal pharmacy. A drug discount card can reduce the price to around $65. And a drug coupon can bring it down to around $15 at many pharmacies in my neighborhood.That’s an 89% savings, and just over $500 saved annually.
When a generic is first introduced, there are usually only one or two companies making the product, so the price remains high:case in point, Lexapro (escitalopram). Ninety pills (10 mg)are$351.89. Using a discount card or drug coupon reduces the price to $38.46.However, Costco crushes the competition, selling it for around $11.40. That’s an amazing97% savings, and just over $1,350 annually.
Brand Name SSRI’s
If you need the brand name SSRI, the lowest prices are found internationally. Just make sure the pharmacy is verified by a third party, such as those listed on PharmacyChecker.com. The average savings on brand name Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft from international pharmaciesis 82%. View the savings chart below:
Savings on Lexapro (10 mg, 90 pills)
International Online Pharmacy
Costco.com price calculated from 100 pills
Savings on Prozac (10 mg, 90 pills)
International Online Pharmacy
Annual Savings: $2,127.60
Savings on Zoloft (100 mg, 90 pills)
International Online Pharmacy
Annual Savings: $1,990.80
The bottom line here is to check all of your options before buying generic or brand name antidepressants. Your best bets for generic Zoloft, Prozac, or Lexapro are definitely drug discount cards or coupons. You may want to print out a few different coupons and discount cards available on the internet and then bring them to a few pharmacies to compare prices. If you want or need the brand, international online pharmacies offer incredibly low prices and potentially thousands of dollars in savings each year.