PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Popular Media Targets the High Prices of U.S. Healthcare

The International Federation of Health Plans released data yesterday that compares the costs of healthcare around the world. Thankfully, The Huffington Post and Vox.com chose to cover this. While the Huffington Post article merely adds more proof that America has high drug prices, the Vox article points out something that we’ve been talking about for a long time: the U.S. pays more for the same exact products found in other countries. Sarah Kliff writes, “There’s nothing different about the Nexium that we buy in the United States and the pill that the Dutch buy – except that, in the United States, we’re terrible at negotiating a good deal on pretty much any medical service.”

Interestingly, there is sometimes a difference in various countries’ versions of Nexium: it is often sold as a tablet in Europe compared to a capsule in the U.S. Both products are made by drug giant AstraZeneca.  There are many instances where the exact same drug, made in the United States, is astronomically more expensive domestically than internationally. To show you, just hop on the time machine to our series Made in America; Cheaper Abroad.

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Pharma’s Legal Hypocrisy Defending High Drug Prices

A recent blog post on Philly.com by pharmaceutical industry expert Daniel Hoffman, Ph.D., exposes the hypocrisy of pharma’s addictions to high U.S. drug prices and deceptive marketing. Dr. Hoffman asserts that because the pharmaceutical industry is doing a bad job at generating revenues with new and innovative medications, and even flailing in its “me-too” drug business model,  it has shifted to “economic hypocrisy and legal sophistry” to protect and generate revenue. Its shift may also be caused by increasing use of generics and compulsory licensing (allowing generic competition in spite of current patents), as well as the flat-out uproar against high drug prices, especially in the U.S.

Dr. Hoffman used data from our “American Made; Cheaper Abroad” series to highlight the incredible price gap between domestic and foreign prices of American made drugs. A price gap should exist; there’s nothing wrong with companies setting different prices in different countries. Poorer countries pay lower prices, and richer countries pay higher prices. The problem is that drug prices are excessively high in the U.S., so much so that they are often unaffordable for tens of millions of middle class Americans. The pharmaceutical industry takes advantage of a global economy and free trade agreements to keep manufacturing costs down and maximize patent terms. Despite reaping the rewards of globalization, the industry continues to try to prevent consumers from doing so, as exemplified by its efforts to stop Maine’s progressive law that facilitates safe personal drug importation. The industry’s bogus safety arguments about personal drug importation failed to stop the law from passing and now the drug and U.S. pharmacy industries are turning to the courts to protect profits.

Dr. Hoffman explains other legal ploys recently used by pharma, primarily to defend against charges of deceptive marketing practices. Johnson & Johnson, claiming its rights of due process were violated, tried to invalidate a request for documents by the City of Chicago in part because the city used an outside law firm that would receive a percentage of any settlement. In other words, J&J argued that by earning a percentage of a potential settlement, the law firm’s incentive to win was too strong and thus unfair to J&J! Facing similar charges, Merck argued against the Kentucky Attorney General’s similar arrangement with an outside law firm. A judge ruled against Merck’s complaint.

To quote the author, “So pharma vigorously seeks justice from the legal system when it tries to prevent foreign countries from exercising compulsory licensing (i.e. breaking patents), while it also claims the public’s representatives shouldn’t be allowed to obtain first-rate legal counsel.” Pharma is trying to create an unfair playing field, both in the legal area and within the global economy.

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American Made, Cheaper Abroad: The Conclusion – 76% Savings Abroad!

For 15 weeks, we tracked prices among U.S. and foreign pharmacies on popular drugs manufactured in in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). Our analysis found that these medications were an average 76% less expensive from the lowest-cost PharmacyChecker.com-approved international pharmacy than a local U.S. pharmacy in New York City. Even when medications were available as generics, such as Singluair and Urocit-K, the prices for the brand name abroad were cheaper than the generic in the U.S.

Just for the record, prescription drugs manufactured under government regulation in many other countries are just as safe as those made here. Critics of international online pharmacies (mostly people connected to drug companies or big chain pharmacy interests) often mention poor foreign manufacturing practices, especially for generic drugs, outside the U.S. to scare Americans from ordering medication internationally.  But so many FDA-approved drugs currently sold in U.S. pharmacies are imported – 40% according to the FDA – and many are generics. As our vice president Gabriel Levitt said, “We looked only at brand name medications manufactured in the U.S., not because they’re any safer than those made elsewhere, but because we found it so compelling that the same drugs made here are about 76% less expensive abroad.”

For more information, read our recent press release.

Average Savings Buying from an International Online Pharmacy for Brand Name Medications Manufactured in America*

 

Drug Local U.S. Pharmacy Price Lowest International PharmacyChecker.com Listed Price Percent Savings
Acuvail 0.45% – 30 vials+ $249 $65 74%
Cardura XL 4 mg – 90 pills $285 $67 76%
Crestor 40 mg – 90 pills+ $680 $140 79%
Cymbalta 60 mg – 90 pills+ $879 $116 87%
Invega 6 mg – 90 pills $1,932 $580 70%
Janumet 50/500 mg – 180 pills+ $1,050 $172 84%
Lotemax 0.5% – 5 ml $188 $30 84%
Lumigan 0.03% – 2.5 ml $114 $22 81%
Pataday 0.2% – 2.5 ml $161 $34 79%
Pulmicort 0.25 mg/2ml – 60 respules $698 $117 83%
Restasis 0.05% – 60 Vials $394 $116 71%
Singulair Granules 4 mg – 90 pills+ $732 $176 76%
Strattera 25 mg – 90 caps+ $828 $311 63%
Tarceva 100 mg – 30 pills $6,531 $1,949 70%
Urocit-K 10 meq – 90 pills++ $146 $57 61%
Average Savings 76%
* Includes manufacturing in Puerto Rico, Local U.S. Pharmacy Prices found at a New York City Rite-Aid
+price calculated from 84 pills.
++price calculated from 100 pills.
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American Made, Cheaper Abroad: Urocit-K

The final post in our weekly series identifying prescription drugs manufactured in America and their prices.

Urocit-K (potassium citrate) is a medication used to prevent gout and kidney stones, as well as problems caused by kidney disease. Despite being made in the U.S., where it is also available as a generic, prices for Urocit-K are lower abroad than they are in U.S. pharmacies. Ninety tablets (10meq) of brand-name Urocit-K are $145.98 at a New York City Rite-Aid, and the generic is $124.08 at the same pharmacy. From an international online pharmacy, 90 tablets of Urocit-K are only $56.70. That’s a 61% savings!

There are hundreds if not thousands of medications made in America that are sold for much lower prices elsewhere. We hope this series opened a window of light for Americans who are looking for affordable medication or interested in prescription drug manufacturing and their prices.

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American Made, Cheaper Abroad: Singulair

A weekly series identifying prescription drugs manufactured in America and their prices.

Singulair 4 mg oral granules (montelukast) are used to treat asthma in pediatric patients. Brand-name Singulair is manufactured in the U.S. by Merck, but it is available for much lower prices in other countries. Brand-name Singulair from a verified international online pharmacy is even cheaper than the generic here! At a New York City pharmacy, 90 units of Singulair costs $731.99 and the generic is $458.99. From a PharmacyChecker.com approved international pharmacy, it costs only $176. That’s a 76% savings.

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