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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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LegitScript, John Horton, Lies, and the Mission to End Online Access to Safe and Affordable Medication

LegitScript is again disseminating misinformation to discredit PharmacyChecker.com and its mission to help consumers safely access affordable medication, and we can bet that the very powerful pharmaceutical company interests LegitScript allies with are enjoying its efforts.

This week, LegitScipt’s John Horton blogged with apparent glee about charges by the U.S Attorney’s Office for Western Pennsylvania implicating several Canadian individuals and their company, Quantum Solutions, for allegedly exporting wholesale quantities of medications manufactured for foreign markets to U.S. pharmacists between 2007 and 2011.

Horton makes the mistake of saying that the case involved charges against an internet pharmacy certified by PharmacyChecker, but this is not the case.  No online pharmacy is charged in the case, let alone any online pharmacy verified by PharmacyChecker.

Horton also states that the case involved the shipment of “bad” medicine, but there is nothing in the court documents indicating a problem with the quality of any of medications. Their labeling was apparently for the countries where they were being sold, which makes them “misbranded” if sold in the U.S. but not “bad” medicine. The drugs involved were expensive brand name drugs like Abilify, Zyprexa, and Plavix, costing hundreds of dollars per month in the U.S. but normally 80-90% lower in price outside the U.S. — which is likely what motivated the U.S. pharmacists to allegedly purchase the medication from abroad.

John Horton’s blog shows that in the world of online pharmacies, one party you can’t trust for reliable information is John Horton.

A very strange thing about the government’s filing in this case is an attachment listing website domains, a few of which are for international online pharmacies verified in our program.  There is no claim of wrongdoing by any of these sites. The filing explains that these website addresses are property which the U.S. government seeks to have forfeited by the defendants in the event of a conviction, as the addresses may have been purchased with proceeds of the alleged offense. Certainly there are other assets owned by the defendants that our government could seek, so why focus on these uninvolved websites? It would seem that if these websites were taken by the government, the public would lose access to several safe, low-cost pharmacies.

Not surprisingly, John Horton misrepresents at least one of these pharmacies as being “the subject of today’s criminal charges” (more lies). Horton goes further by posting this list of websites to his blog in what we see as an attempt to smear the reputations of these uninvolved sites and part of his ongoing tactics to scare Americans away from safe and affordable medication and keep us hostage to inflated drug prices at home.

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Brand Name Medications Savings Often Exceed 90% Using International Online Pharmacies but FDA Rule May Threaten Access

"Abstract pills" by Robson# - Flickr: Pills here. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abstract_pills.jpg#/media/File:Abstract_pills.jpg

“Abstract pills” by Robson – Flickr

We issued a press release yesterday about our new drug price savings analysis, which shows that consumers can save 84% on average among a basket of 10 popular branded maintenance medications if purchased from verified international online pharmacies instead of local U.S. pharmacies. Many of the savings are over 90%! The greatest savings is 94% for the acid-blocking drug Nexium ($946.50 in the U.S. vs. $53.09 online for a three month supply of 40 mg pills) and the cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor ($803.89 vs. $51.40 – 20 mg pills). The greatest dollar savings is for the antipsychotic drug Abilify ($3,178.99 vs. $237.05 – 10 mg pills). The average annual savings per drug is $3,479. Despite this, last month, the U.S. FDA announced a “new rule” regarding its expanded authority to destroy personally imported medicine under Section 708 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety Act of 2012. Several members of congress have raised concern that FDA’s rules may impede access to affordable medication. [1]

The FDA says that its new regulation is meant to protect patients from unsafe medications and counterfeit drugs but the agency doesn’t seem to say how they will distinguish safe from potentially unsafe personal drug imports.

For the full press release, click here.

Prices for a 3-month supply of top-selling brand name medications
Drug Local U.S. Pharmacy Price International Online Pharmacy Price* International Online Savings Annual Savings
Nexium 40mg $946.50 $53.09 94% $3,573.64
Crestor 20mg $803.89 $51.40 94% $3,009.96
Abilify 10mg $3,178.99 $237.05 93% $11,767.75
Advair Diskus 250/50mcg (180 doses) $1,203.00 $99.99 92% $4,412.04
Spiriva Handihaler 18mcg $1,221.00 $113.99 91% $4,428.04
Diovan 80mg $611.99 $57.85 91% $2,216.56
Synthroid 100mcg $137.99 $26.99 80% $444.00
Jardiance 10mg $1,150.00 $287.99 75% $3,448.04
Ventolin HFA 100mcg $192.00 $68.82 64% $492.72
Lantus Solostar 15ml $397.89 $148.94 63% $995.80
Average $984.33 $114.62 84% $3,478.85

Sources: Local pharmacy prices based on prices at chain drugstores in New York City; International online pharmacy prices based on lowest prices listed on PharmacyChecker.com. All prices obtained on September 30, 2015.

*Medications dispensed by licensed pharmacies, verified by PharmacyChecker.com, in one of the following countries Australia, Barbados, Canada, India, Mauritius, New Zealand, Turkey, Singapore, or United Kingdom.

[1] U.S. Senator David Vitter, “Vitter Fights to Keep Prescription Drug Prices Affordable Through Reimportation,” July 9, 2014 [press release], see [www] vitter.senate.gov/newsroom/press/vitter-fights-to-keep-prescription-drug-prices-affordablethrough-reimportation [Last accessed 9/20/14]. 38 Representative JoAnn Emerson (MO), “Food and Drug Administration Reform Act.” May 30th 2012. See [www] votesmart.org/public-statement/702416/food-and-drug-administration-reform-act-of-2012#.UxVJN-co4s9 [Last accessed 9/22/14]. Letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by Congressman Keith Ellison dated July 1st, 2014. See See [www] regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2014-N-0504-0022.

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Generic Drugs Prices, Diminishing Returns?

Yesterday, AARP published its latest Rx Price Watch report, which highlights generic prescription medication price changes from 2006-2013. Generic medication is considered the best avenue towards lower taxpayer and consumer drug costs. In the mid-1980s, passage of the Hatch-Waxman Act helped bring lower cost generic medication to the market faster and fueled intense price competition among generic manufacturers. The result was 1) much lower drug prices on medications that have lost their patents (often 90% lower) and 2) an exceedingly high generic penetration rate with generics comprising 85% of all medication use. AARP’s report suggests that generic drug prices continue to decrease, which is good, but at a much slower rate, “indicating that the era of consistent generic drug price decreases may be coming to an end.”

Stay calm. Generics are still usually much lower cost than the brand names and that will continue to be the case. AARP’s report notes that 2013 had the lowest average generic price decrease (4.1%) since 2006. However, AARP’s data also shows considerable fluctuation in this rate, enough to question whether or not we’re really experiencing a new normal in which generic drug prices no longer decline year after year. For example, the decreases in average generic drug prices that occurred in the prior two years, 2011 and 2012, 9.1% and 14.5%, respectively, were the highest since 2006. These numbers, however, most likely reflect what’s referred to as the “patent cliff” – a time when many patents on blockbuster brand name drugs, such as Lipitor and Plavix, lost their patents, thus allowing much lower cost generics to enter the market. As I see it, we don’t really know the future trend of generic drug prices.

Again, most generic drugs are way cheaper than their brand name counterparts and just as safe and effective. The big generic drug problem is that the cost of some generics has spiked outrageously over the past few years, sometimes beyond the reach of the American consumer. Usually when we talk about insane price increases of brand name drugs year over year the percentages are 10, 20, 30 or even 40%. But the increases for some generics have literally been in the 2000% range! One crazy example, reported by the People’s Pharmacy, showed that the cost of the antibiotic doxycycline skyrocketed from six cents ($.06) to $3.30, a 5500% increase.

In fact, directing you back to our research from November 2014, we found that even brand name versions sold in foreign pharmacies can be MUCH lower cost than the generics sold here! Please keep in mind that those same generics mentioned in our analysis may have already come down in price domestically. So before you buy from an international online pharmacy, check your local pharmacy first.

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PhRMA Criticizes Obama’s New Budget For Requiring More Rebates on Prescription Drugs

“President Obama just released next year’s budget proposal and it has already sparked fierce criticism from the pharmaceutical industry. That’s because the plan would require Big Pharma to give an additional $156 billion in drug rebates over the next decade.” 
 
This news comes from RxRight.org’s latest blog post, entitled Big Pharma balks at President’s proposed budget. Not surprisingly, as articulated by its president, John Castellani, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is against the rebates and other reforms found in Obama’s budget. One point championed by Mr. Castellani as a reason to criticize President Obama is that the “Medicare Part D is working well for seniors.” While Part D has certainly helped many seniors afford needed medication, the RxRights post, and empirical data, show that millions of seniors still struggle to afford necessary, and sometimes life-saving, prescription drugs because of costs – despite Medicare Part D drugs plans. 
 
In fact, the failure of Medicare Part D is one reason that reputable international online pharmacies remain a lifeline for Medicare enrollees. It appears if Obama’s budget is approved, without changes to his prescription drug rebate requests, then more Americans will forgo the international option in favor of domestic pharmacies. 
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Candidate Rick Santorum Defends High Drug Prices In America

During a recent campaign appearance in front of a Tea Party crowd, as reported by ABC News, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told a mother and her sick son that high drug costs are fair because they are determined by free market forces. It appears that Mr. Santorum doesn’t understand the crisis of prescription drug prices and that the market is failing to price prescription drugs within reach for 10s of millions of Americans.

According to ABC News, “Santorum told a large Tea Party crowd here that he sympathized with the boy’s case, but he also believed in the marketplace,” and that companies wouldn’t be making the life-saving drugs if they didn’t believe they would turn a profit doing so. The former senator from Pennsylvania seemed to be lecturing the American people when he said: “People have no problem paying $900 for an iPad…but paying $900 for a drug they have a problem with — it keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned to think health care is something you can get without having to pay for it.” (more…)

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