CNN.com recently aired a video entitled Phony meds flooding U.S, which addressed a variety of dangers related to buying prescription drugs in Mexico, on the streets of Los Angeles, from unauthorized sources and from certain online pharmacies. While warning consumers about the dangers of bad medicine and fraudulent practices is good, the CNN piece, unfortunately, may confuse consumers about what the real threats are. With 120 million American consumers struggling to afford their medication, many are understandably looking for alternatives to the prohibitive costs of brand name drugs in the U.S. We believe our Consumer Guide, which does not recommend Mexican pharmacies, gives the best information on how to save money safely on your prescriptions, a summary of which you can find here.
Whether traveling to Mexico or ordering from international online pharmacies, Americans deserve to be properly informed and this CNN piece highlights how the message to consumers is often misleading, unclear and inaccurate.
The segment begins at a border crossing between Tijuana and southern California. CNN reports, “Everyday Americans flock across the border to buy deeply discounted prescription drugs”. Several Americans interviewed in the piece say they can get cheaper medications at Mexican pharmacies, at 50% off or more, and that it works for them.
The story takes a sharp turn by reporting that while it’s legal to buy prescription drugs in Mexico, the U.S. State Department cautions Americans against it because they may get arrested by people impersonating Mexican police or border agents, detained for 48 hours, and forced to pay bribes or legal fees before being released. CNN also communicates that American law enforcement officials believe that 25% of prescription drugs sold in Mexico are counterfeit. These, of course, are good reasons not to cross the border into Mexico to buy prescription drugs, but the facts don’t seem to add up or are not really explained. Delving into the area of Internet pharmacies, CNN then reports that 25% is actually lower than the percentage of counterfeits found online, and cuts to someone who appears to be a Los Angles law enforcement official with his face purposefully blurred form recognition who states, “We would say 100% of it is counterfeit.”
One meaningful part of the news piece shows how desperate Americans have become to find affordable medications as we learn that prescription drugs are being sold on the streets of America from unregulated sources. Clearly, no one should ever buy their prescription drugs from street vendors. An LA County Department of Public Health official states during the piece that there are programs to help poor people afford their medications but doesn’t mention any.
Oddly, CNN only reports that it is legal to buy prescription drugs in Mexico, but not that it is technically illegal to personally import prescription drugs back into the United States. The omission may be due to the fact that Americans are not prosecuted for such personal importations.
While PharmacyChecker.com does not have any Mexican pharmacies in its program, we believe the risks of buying prescription drugs across the border are overstated, particularly if Americans are buying products made by well-known drug manufacturers. There is little doubt that the level of counterfeit drugs found in Mexican pharmacies is higher than in U.S. pharmacies, but we looked around and were unable to find how the U.S. Government came up with “25%” as the percentage of Mexican drugs that are counterfeit. We also don’t know on what basis CNN reported that the percentage of counterfeit drugs bought online is greater than 25% and thought that the statement by the law enforcement official that “100%” of drugs purchased online are counterfeit was ridiculous. Here’s what we do know because studies and facts prove it: 1) brand name medication purchased from properly verified websites, foreign and domestic, is virtually always genuine, as one would find in U.S. pharmacies; 2) the government would prefer that Americans not personally import lower cost prescription medication, either in person or by mail, and are thus motivated to scare them from doing so. Ironically, the customers interviewed by CNN who actually bought medications in Mexico seemed happy and none interviewed had become sick from taking medicines purchased in Mexico or fell victim to fraudulent behavior.
The conclusions of CNN’s piece show how well the pharmaceutical and U.S. chain pharmacy industry have apparently done at influencing government and the media to the detriment of American consumers. The report’s final communication essentially recommends that Americans buy prescription drugs from the most expensive U.S. pharmacies. We are informed, “Authorities say the safest way to obtain prescriptions is through large chain pharmacies, who have direct relations with drug manufacturers, or though Internet sites with ‘the VIPPS seal’, meaning they are accredited with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.”
This conclusion misses the whole point of the problem – DRUG AFFORDABILITY. The chain pharmacies and VIPPS-approved online pharmacies do not offer the same low brand name drug prices found from warehouse club pharmacies (like Costco’s), Canadian, or other foreign licensed pharmacies because our government does not control prescription drug prices, as do most other countries. Also, an American watching this CNN piece might conclude that local, neighborhood and community pharmacies are not as safe as large national chain pharmacies and VIPPS online pharmacies (which are often just the website extensions of large chain pharmacies). It’s likely that independent and community pharmacies struggling in this economy were unhappy about such reporting.
Having the right information on how to afford prescription drugs is what American consumers really need. We believe our Consumer Guide provides the most objective and concretely helpful information on how uninsured Americans can afford their medications. What’s more, it is easy to find the best prices from properly verified online pharmacies simply by comparing prices on www.pharmacychecker.com.