PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Fewer Americans Skipping Meds due To Cost – International Online Pharmacies and Personal Drug Importation Help!

This will not be major headline news anytime soon but it’s true. Last week our friends at RxRights blogged about new data from the Commonwealth Fund showing that the number of Americans ages 19-64 who did not fill prescriptions due to cost decreased to a depressing 35 million in 2014 from the even more depressing figure of 50 million in 2012. Obamacare, lower unemployment, and a stronger economy in which people feel more secure paying for even very expensive medications are largely responsible.  Minus the very expensive medications – that’s all good stuff.

And how about international online pharmacies and personal drug importation? Well, just yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about 2% of Americans are still buying medication from foreign countries. That’s about 5 million Americans who would potentially go without needed medication if it were not for lower cost foreign medication sold by safe international online pharmacies.

I did not use the word “potentially” loosely. Some of those five million are getting nabbed by rogue online pharmacies, resulting in too many Americans taking substandard, adulterated, or counterfeit medications. If those people are informed properly they will not be victims. is there for you: if you are one of the 35 million Americans wondering whether you can afford that medication prescribed by your doctor, we’re doing better than ever at empowering you with information that helps you get the medications you need at a price you can afford while steering clear of rogue online pharmacies.

It’s important to remember how dangerous it is to not take the medications you need. One expert at CDC stated: “People who do not take their medication as prescribed have more hospitalizations, emergency room visits and an increased burden of their illness.”

It’s important to note that the CDC report provided lower figures on how many Americans are going without prescribed medications due to cost than the Commonwealth Fund reported: about one in 10. We’re going to look at the data in the coming weeks and provide you some guidance on this discrepancy. But clearly the overall numbers have gotten better in the last two years.

We thrive on these better numbers – more consumers accessing the healthcare they need –but with tens of millions of Americans saying they can’t afford their meds there’s so much more work to be done!

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New study on Medicare Part D reveals reversing fortunes for the most vulnerable seniors

The journal Health Affairs recently published an article titled “Medication Affordability Gains Following Medicare Part D Are Eroding Among Elderly With Multiple Chronic Conditions.” The article is about changes in and problems with affordable access to medication for all Medicare enrollees who are 65 and over, not just those with chronic conditions. It focuses on two different time periods, 2007 to 2009 and 2009 to 2011. The data shows that while Medicare Part D initially improved access to affordable medication, some of those gains were lost, and for seniors taking the most medications, the most vulnerable, improvements may have disappeared entirely.

In 2005, before Part D plans were available, the study noted that an estimated 14.9% of seniors experienced cost-related problems accessing prescription drugs (meaning they did not take medicine as prescribed due to cost), also called cost-related prescription non-adherence (CRN). CRN decreased to 11.3% in 2007. Then, surprisingly, following the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (during which the average wealth of the elderly dropped 20%), the number decreased further to 10.2%.

During the economic upturn, however, the CRN figures crept back up to 10.8 by 2011. The same trend – a decline then an increase – happened for the percent of seniors forgoing other needs to pay for medicine (such as food and heat): 8.8 percent in 2005, 5.6% in 2007, 4.0%, but back up to 5.3% in 2011.

The CRN numbers are much worse for seniors with four or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and asthma, among others, representing about 27% of all beneficiaries. (more…)

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Pennsylvania Seniors Skipping Meals, Meds, or Both According to New Study

Seniors are continuing to skip meals or leave prescriptions unfilled due to budgetary constraints, according to a survey conducted by Public Health Management Corporation’s Center for Data Innovation (PHMC). PMHC surveyed 10,000 households in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and found that 112,500 older adults (60 +) in the region skipped a meal or didn’t fill a prescription because of tight budgets. The study points out that skipping either medication or a meal often leads to negative health outcomes. Many of the older adults skipping either had a chronic condition; 81% had arthritis, 67% had high blood pressure, and 50% had diabetes.

Read the results of the survey here.


50 Million Americans, Ages 19-64, Forgo Meds in 2012 Due to Cost; 37% of Seniors Concerned About Drug Prices

The number of Americans not taking medication due to high drug prices – a public health crisis – has increased dramatically over the past decade. Last year, drug prices deterred 50 million Americans ages 19-64 from filling a prescription, a 28% increase since 2003 and 4% increase since 2010, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. The survey measures gaps in medical care due to cost, such as forgone doctors’ visits, medical tests, specialist care, and prescription medications. The prescription-use data for 2012 was derived from answers to the following question: In the last 12 months, was there any time when you did not fill a prescription for medicine because of the cost? This fifty million – a staggering figure – does not even include seniors or children who also did not fill a prescription due to cost.

Not surprisingly, the problems for the uninsured are much greater, especially for those with chronic conditions. Sixty percent of uninsured Americans with a chronic condition skipped taking medication in 2012 due to cost, compared to 14% of insured Americans. Overall, the figure was 28%; that’s 18 million out of sixty-six million adults with hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, lung disease, or heart disease who reported skipping medication.

As far as seniors skipping meds goes, a recent Walgreens survey may have some answers. It found that 37% of Medicare enrollees are concerned about their drug costs and 20% delay filling prescriptions or skip doses to manage costs. That’s almost an additional eight million (using U.S. Census data for 2011) Americans not adhering to prescriptions due to high drug prices. Walgreens attributes such dismal numbers to the fact that people are unaware of cost-saving alternatives, such as the fact that co-pays vary among pharmacies and limited knowledge of how Part D prescription plans work.

Other reasons seniors skip medication are because their Part D plans do not cover brand name medications prescribed by their doctors and the “donut hole,” a coverage gap in Medicare drug plans that has fortunately begun to close due to Obamacare .

We’re happy to note that the Commonwealth Fund’s report shows that more insured Americans under Obamacare in the years to come could alleviate medical cost problems for millions of Americans. We’ll explore in a future blog post new data on how Americans are addressing the problem of high drug prices.

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CBO Study Shows Access to Lower Cost Medication a Critical Factor in Healthcare Spending

High prescription drug costs make Americans sicker and contribute to our national budget woes, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released at the end of last year. The report serves as a reminder to always take your prescribed medicines. We view this study as further evidence that access to affordable medication from reputable international online pharmacies improves the health of Americans and decreases healthcare spending.

To put it simply, as consumers’ out-of-pocket drug costs rise, they are less likely to take their medicine as prescribed, which leads to more medical services and increased healthcare spending. The CBO report tells us that the converse follows: when out-of-pocket prescription costs fall there is less need for medical services, and as a result less healthcare spending.

The CBO’s report is based on an analysis of relatively new studies that have tracked out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and overall healthcare spending in employer and government-based health insurance programs. The result is that CBO has now internalized out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in its methodology for calculating the effects of legislation affecting drug costs. This means if a new bill aims to bring down prescription drug prices in the United States or through drug importation, CBO would calculate how many more prescriptions would be filled and estimate the resulting decrease in healthcare spending.

It is critical that our elected leaders and government officials take this into account when considering new laws or taking actions that affect access to affordable medication .Just yesterday, Minnesota U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar re-introduced a bill, The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, to enable the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices with drug manufacturers. Such legislation would most certainly lower drug costs, improve health, and decrease the taxpayer burden on healthcare spending

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Online Pharmacy Report for 2012: More Access and Less Misinformation Needed

The Deadly Problem of High Drug Costs and How Personal Drug Importation Helps

High prescription drug prices continue to be a public health crisis in America and the problem appears to have worsened throughout 2012.  The added healthcare costs to the economy caused by Americans not taking their medication have increased from $290 billion to $313 billion. According to a study by the New England Healthcare Institute, over one million Americans die each year because they do not correctly take needed medications or do not take them at all.  Though not all of those deaths are due to cost, it’s fair to estimate that hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying each year because drug costs are the number one reason for people not taking prescribed medications. It follows that all avenues of access to safe and affordable medication save lives, including access to safe online pharmacies with the lowest drug prices, international or domestic, which are a real lifeline for American consumers. Therefore, the federal statute banning personal drug importation under most circumstances doesn’t change the fact that current access to safe personal drug importation is good for the public health.

Savings Online Internationally Have Increased; U.S. Has Best Deals on Generics

Online pharmacy savings increased in 2012 due to lower international pharmacy prices coupled with extreme drug price increases – 13 % — in the United States.  The potential savings on popular brand name drugs increased to 85% in November 2012 from 80% in March 2011, according to research.  Online pharmacy savings are greatest on brand name medications, which when purchased internationally often help Americans save thousands of dollars each year. Some American lives are saved by online access to international pharmacies. In stark contrast to pricing on brand name drugs, U.S. generic drug prices remained globally competitive and offered Americans their best bet on many popular medications available generically at U.S. pharmacies, such as Walmart’s $4 discount programs, and usage of prescription drug discount cards.  And because many popular drugs, such as Lipitor and Plavix, are now sold generically in the U.S., we can expect a shift from international to domestic pharmacies in 2013.

Rogue Online Pharmacies vs. High Drug Prices: Which is More Dangerous?

Rogue online pharmacies are a serious public health threat and need to be put out of business, but the draconian public health consequences of Americans going without needed medication due to cost is a much bigger problem. While one death is too many, very few Americans have died from rogue online pharmacies, domestic or foreign. In dire contrast, as mentioned above, it’s estimated that over one million Americans die each year from not taking needed medication with U.S. drug costs identified as the main culprit behind Americans going without prescribed medication. It’s worth noting that the research showing this sobering data was funded in part by pharmaceutical companies, including PhRMA and Pfizer (Read the research by the New England Health Institute. Follow this hyperlink to the full report; the sponsors are made clear).

The Media Storm of Misinformation on Online Pharmacies

It’s not a freakish editorial accident that the media appears far more interested in reporting about the evils of online pharmacies, especially foreign ones, and their dangers, than the national disgrace of high drug prices causing bankruptcy, sickness, hospitalization and death. The amazing profits of the global pharmaceutical industry are overwhelmingly dependent on charging U.S. consumers the world’s highest prescription drug prices. Preventing Americans from access to lower international drug prices is obviously one of their major goals. The power of the pharmaceutical and the U.S. pharmacy industries, exercised through billions of dollars spent on advertising, lobbying, and media relations, has led to the mainstream media propagating a false narrative about an online marketplace in which it’s not safe to buy lower priced medication from non-U.S. online pharmacies under any circumstances. We’ve written about most of the groups responsible for perpetuating the false narrative:

Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies

Center For Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)

National Association of Board of Pharmacy

Partnership For Safe Medicines

With the exception of CSIP, each of the groups above receives funding or revenue from the pharmaceutical industry, U.S. pharmacy industry, and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They all conflate the evils of dangerous rogue online pharmacies with the safe practice of personal drug importation from safe online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada. While FDA’s policies continue to allow Americans to personally import prescription medication, the FDA now engages fully in promoting the industry-sponsored media script. CSIP is largely the brain child of the White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, an office dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights and strenuously lobbied and influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

The Truth About Online Pharmacies

There are many international online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada, that have operated safely and ethically for over a decade. Independent research demonstrates that there are clearly safe online pharmacies, international and domestic, including those approved by Safe international online pharmacies meet the same or similar standards as U.S. mail-order pharmacies. Their main difference is that they sell medication at a much lower price than U.S. pharmacies. They are not rogue online pharmacies. It’s that simple.

The dangers of rogue online pharmacies are very serious.  Such rogues purport to be real and safe pharmacies when often they are not selling from licensed sources, requiring prescriptions or following other basic pharmacy safety protocols.  Some online pharmacies are even operated by organized crime groups. And some sell deadly products.

Online Pharmacies in 2013

In 2012, law enforcement successfully shutdown more dangerous rogue sites. We should all applaud and encourage further efforts to crackdown on rogue online pharmacies. But we should also expose misinformation being spread by the pharmaceutical industry about safe international online pharmacies. Their misinformation directly leads to Americans going without medication because people are scared away from online pharmacies that sell the medications they need at a price they can afford.

To help protect the ability of Americans to safely import affordable prescription medication, we encourage you to become part of the movement. Join and contact your elected officials now to let them know Americans need access to safe medication that is affordable, including through personal drug importation.

American consumers should be able and encouraged to purchase safe medication at the lowest possible prices, whether domestically or internationally. Federal and state laws that decrease access to safe and affordable medication are neither ethical nor conducive to protecting the public health. Comparing drug prices among licensed and safe pharmacies and making this information available online for consumers helps maximize access while greatly minimizing risks: will proudly as ever continue to do so in 2013.

Happy Holidays and New Year!

Gabriel Levitt
Vice President