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Can you buy lower cost medication from foreign pharmacies in your neighborhood?

Vero Beach Strip Mall

Vero Beach Strip Mall by Sylvar, Creative Commons

Yes, but it depends where you live. For example, if you live in Florida, according to Kaiser Health News, apparently it’s very easy to find a local “storefront” where you can buy lower cost medication from Canada and other countries. Of course, consumers do not need to go to a pharmacy storefront to benefit from lower drug prices in other countries. They can compare drug prices among safe international online pharmacies in our Verification Program.

As with most personal drug importation, the FDA has said importing meds from foreign pharmacies is technically illegal under most circumstances. In practice, the FDA does not prosecute individuals for importing small quantities of prescription drugs for personal use. According to Kaiser Health News, the pharmacy storefronts in Florida have not faced regulatory actions. A professor of health policy at University of South Florida, Sean Greggory, stated that shutting down storefronts “would be seen as restricting access to affordable drugs and supporting big bad [drug] corporations.”

PharmacyChecker.com checks the credentials of international online pharmacies to verify that they are licensed and operating properly but to date we have not checked storefront pharmacy operations. However, over the years, we’ve heard about storefronts throughout the U.S. that refer orders to pharmacies in other countries and, if those pharmacies are licensed and operating safety, we think it’s great!

The need for the storefronts is greatest among older Americans. Their Part D Medicare drug plans are not always adequate to cover prescription costs and seniors continue to face drug affordability problems. The storefronts, like international online pharmacies, offer much lower prices on brand name drugs than local U.S. pharmacies.

When online pharmacies, particularly the Canadian options, were first available over 15 years ago, many seniors did not know how to use the Internet or felt uncomfortable doing so. In 2000, only 14% of seniors used the Internet, compared to 58% in 2015 [Source]. But that still leaves a lot of seniors who might have trouble ordering medication online by themselves. For them, pharmacy storefronts can be a lifeline. As the Kaiser article points out, while “Many consumers do their own online buying from foreign pharmacies…storefront operators target an older generation interested in buying medicines abroad but who lack computer savvy and are insecure about buying online by themselves.”

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Legalizing Personal Drug Importation from Canadian Pharmacies – Amen and Word Up!

Well, here we go again, another bill that would formally legalize a practice that has been going on for decades: Americans importing meds from Canadian pharmacies, at the very least to cut down on their drug bills, and in some cases even to afford life-saving medicines. Sorry to sound cynical, but I’ve seen these bills before and Big Pharma is always behind their failure – but what about this time?

The bill, H.R. 2228, was introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) barely a week ago and co-sponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and is entitled “Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015.” It seems to mirror legislation in the Senate, S. 122, introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-NV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), which has the same title.

The bills are focused on Canadian pharmacies only, not the wider landscape of international online pharmacies, which are often based in Canada: ones that millions of Americans have benefited from for over a decade. If H.R. 2228 passes, the FDA would be required to publish a list of approved Canadian pharmacies from which Americans could legally import, for personal use, non-controlled, non-biologic, and non-temperature sensitive, prescription medications. That would include the majority of maintenance prescription drugs that Americans are currently importing for personal use.

I support this bill 100%. Even though our program is open to safe and licensed pharmacies in other countries, not just ones in Canada and the U.S., the new bill moves the public policy and economic justice needle in the right direction. The practice of international pharmacy began with Americans crossing the border to buy lower cost medications in Canada and then, with the advent of the Internet, buying through mail order. Current law, technically, bans the practice and, unjustly, views it as a criminal act – even though no one has been prosecuted for it. The new bill in the House and Senate would lift the unethical ban on buying lower cost medications for their own use from Canada. Amen and Word Up to that!

So head on over to RxRights.org to contact your elected representatives and let them know you want them to vote for the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015!

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So You Want to Buy Cheap Medicine From an Actual Canadian Pharmacy, Here’s The Deal…

(Click here to skip the explanations and view the steps to finding a Canadian online pharmacy)

If you’ve seen one of the latest FDA press releases regarding Canadian pharmacies, you might be a little confused on how to find one. The FDA seems to acknowledge that there are legitimate – and therefore safe – Canadian pharmacies accessible online. Here’s what they say (with one word italicized by us):

“Don’t order medicines from web sites that claim to be Canadian pharmacies. Most are not legitimate pharmacies, and the drugs they supply are illegal and potentially dangerous.

Claiming to be a Canadian pharmacy is one of the hallmarks of Internet sites that sell illegal prescription drugs which, in many cases, are not made in Canada at all, but in a number of other countries. (Even if an online Canadian pharmacy is legitimate, in general, U.S. citizens cannot legally import prescription drugs from other countries. But that’s a separate issue. We’re talking here about fraud).”

The FDA’s focus on protecting you from online pharmacy fraud is commendable because that’s where the real health and safety threats reside. Since they don’t tell you how to find a legitimate, real Canadian pharmacy, we’re providing you with facts and guidance to help you make the right decisions for your health and prescription savings.  Let’s remember, brand name medications sold in Canada and other non-U.S. pharmacies are often astronomically cheaper than ones here at home. (more…)

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Sen. Olympia Snowe Makes Case For Safe Personal Drug Importation From Credentialed Online Pharmacies

UPDATE: the video showing Senator’s Snowe’s floor remarks is no longer available. Please consult the congressional record for this date to read Senator Snowe’s full remarks.

In support of Senator John McCain’s amendment to facilitate safe personal drug importation from credentialed online pharmacies, Senator Olympia Snowe spoke comprehensively, passionately and honestly about the issue. Though the amendment did not pass, Americans interested in online pharmacies and drug affordability should be aware of some of Ms. Snowe’s most pertinent points in support of personal drug importation. The full senate floor presentation is available for viewing as well.

  1. “Americans are facing tremendous increases in prescription drug prices for far too long and I think it’s at a point in which Congress should address this issue,” said Senator Snowe.In 2010 AARP found that retail prices for the most popular brand name drugs increased 41.5% while the consumer price index rose just 13%. In other words the cost of prescription drugs rose more than three times as much as the inflation rate.”
  2.  Senator Snowe wisely reminded her colleagues that most of “America’s” drug products are already manufactured overseas. Senator Snowe points out that the very medications America consumes come from manufacturing facilities in over 50 countries and “not all of those facilities are even inspected….”
  3. We need a more competitive pharmaceutical market. Senator Snowe points out (by quoting a former Pfizer CEO) that more competition from imported medication will lead to lower prices, higher quality products, and more innovation.
  4. The amendment is far more modest than previous drug importation bills and only calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make a list of approved online pharmacies for personal drug importation but it would not allow for greater “wholesale” drug importation. PharmacyChecker.com already provides such a list that consumers can freely access. Ironically, while Senator Snowe didn’t mention it, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, actually published such a list when she was governor of Kansas for a state drug importation program.

 For those interested in learning more about why personal drug importation should be made more available to Americans please watch Senator Snowe’s floor remarks.


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RxRights.org Opposition to “Stop Online Piracy Act” Featured On CBS Florida Affiliate

The “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), currently before Congress, threatens online access to safe and affordable medication through reputable international online pharmacies. A CBS-Fort Myers report gives a human face to this issue by highlighting a Floridian senior, Mary Miller, who is able to afford her medication only because of a Canadian online pharmacy. If SOPA passes, Ms. Miller may lose access to that Canadian online pharmacy. The CBS report features RxRights.org as the lead organization helping Americans rally to contact their elected officials to oppose SOPA.

Stopping rogue sites in many areas, such as those sites that steal and re-sell copyrighted movies and music, sell knockoffs of designer handbags and clothes, and especially those that sell dangerous or fake medication is the right idea. But a bill that could takedown many websites that are exercising the rights of free speech, publishing music and movies legally, and especially websites selling safe and affordable medication, is a bill that should be abandoned post-haste.

RxRights.org should be loudly applauded for its work on behalf of Americans who are struggling to afford medication by educating Americans about SOPA and how it could block access to affordable prescription medication.

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