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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Justcare.org Founder Diane Archer Interviews PharmacyChecker’s VP for Pharmacy Verification

Independent, unbiased health information.

Independent and unbiased health information

Consumer advocate Diane Archer is the founder of JustCare (www.justcareusa.org), a new online resource that makes health advice fun and easy to understand for boomers, older adults and care providers. We’re excited to announce that Diane interviewed our Vice President for Pharmacy Verifications and Information, Kelly Ann Barnes, JD, Rph, about online pharmacy safety and savings. The interview clearly shows why online pharmacies can save you money –– and how PharmacyChecker.com’s verification efforts give consumers information they need to find the safest international online pharmacies.

In Justcareusa.org’s most recent newsletter, Diane writes: “Can online pharmacies offer safe drugs at huge savings? You bet!” As Chair of the Consumer Reports Board of Directors and founder of the Medicare Rights Center, Diane is a nationally recognized consumer advocate and we’re honored and pleased to have her support for the work we do. It speaks volumes about the integrity that she brings to Justcareusa.org in making it a truly objective and independent source of health information for older Americans and the people who care for them.

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CVS’ New Policy on Smokes Reminds Me of Its Past Support for Drug Importation

Let’s give a big round of applause to CVS, the second largest chain pharmacy (behind Walgreens), for its decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products! To its credit, CVS is not being overly self-righteous, as it largely attributes the policy change as necessary to accommodate legal restrictions on tobacco sales in places where healthcare services are provided: this is in view of its plans to open up more healthcare clinics in its pharmacies throughout the country. So, come October, as per the company’s plans press release, Americans will no longer be able to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products at any of the 7,000-plus CVS stores nationwide.

Unfortunately, removing tobacco products from CVS’ shelves won’t help Americans afford their medicine. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, CVS has the highest drug prices (Costco had the lowest prices, especially on generics). While executives at U.S. pharmacy corporations have steadfastly opposed reforming drug importation laws to bring down drug costs, CVS’ former Chairman and CEO, Thomas Ryan, bravely supported it. To quote Mr. Ryan:

While many in our industry believe that importation is a fundamentally flawed concept and oppose it without exception, I have come to a slightly different view…Millions of Americans already have opted to import drugs because they can’t afford not to. We owe it to them to face this issue head on and not look the other way.

 

That statement was provided by Mr. Ryan in 2004. Since that time, access to affordable medication in the U.S. has only become more difficult due to higher drug prices, and Americans continue to personally import their medication, often from international online pharmacies.

The reason that those online pharmacies are a lifeline is provided by none other than…CVS! CVS/Caremark surveyed their pharmacists about a year ago; 61% cited high drug costs as the number one reason Americans don’t take their meds. Canadian and other foreign pharmacies have much lower prices and so Americans need them.

To be intellectually honest, Mr. Ryan’s idea was not for Americans to buy directly from Canadian or other foreign pharmacies but for CVS to import less expensive medication from verified foreign wholesale pharmacies and then sell it to Americans. Not a bad idea to help bring down drug costs, while keeping American pharmacists employed and corporate profits humming. Thus, understandably, Mr. Ryan’s position was dedicated to the public health and his business interests.

The heart and soul of Mr. Ryan’s position, however, is the public health alone – and not business interests. Once again, he said: “Millions of Americans already have opted to import drugs because they can’t afford not to. We owe it to them to face this issue head on and not look the other way.” They opt to import because brand name drugs are often 90% less expensive internationally. That’s why it’s best to help Americans safely buy medications where they can best afford it instead of looking the other way.

So you can put out that cigarette, get your flu shots from CVS, your generics from Costco and your brand name drugs overseas!

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Just How Much Are High Drug Prices Hurting Americans?

New data from Consumer Reports shows that 67% more adults without prescription benefits under the age of 65 skipped filling a prescription due to high drug prices this year compared to last year. In 2012, 45% of respondents reported they did not fill a prescription due to cost, up from 27% in 2011.

Consumer Reports Survey

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs Tracking Poll, July 2012,

Consumer Reports National Research Center. Click to enlarge.

These results should not be surprising. Many Americans aged 50-65 who lost their jobs during the recession also lost their health insurance. This age group has also had the most difficulty finding work after losing their jobs during the recession. These Americans are not yet eligible for Medicare Part D, which helps reduce prescription drug costs.

Alarmingly, the majority of respondents (both insured and uninsured) to the Consumer Reports survey said that they reduced other household expenses in order to pay for medications. Eighty-four percent of uninsured Americans reported a change in behavior in order to pay for medication. The number of insured Americans reporting a change is also high, at 59%. Budgets for groceries decreased, payment of bills postponed, and credit card payments increased: all because of the high cost of medication.

If you are struggling to pay for medication, keep the following in mind when about to purchase medication. Look for generic alternatives to brand name medications in the United States. Look for drug discount cards or coupons if you are purchasing medicine at a local pharmacy. If there’s no generic alternative, you can look for international online pharmacies and often find savings of 90%. Just make sure they are verified and safe, such as those listed on PharmacyChecker.com.

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Google Online Pharmacy Settlement With DOJ Hurts American Patients, According to AEI Scholar

Last week, Roger Bate, an economist and expert in counterfeit drugs with the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an article called “Google’s Ad Freedom Wrongly Curtailed.” Bate’s piece shows how banning safe foreign online pharmacies from advertising on Google and elsewhere is not only unethical but will lead to sub-optimal health outcomes. As we wrote at the end of August, the non-prosecution agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Google, in which the search engine was fined $500 million for allowing rouge Canadian sites to advertise controlled substances, is good because it forces Google to now block dangerous rogue online pharmacies from advertising. At the same time, however, it’s bad because it appears to prevent Google from allowing safe and affordable Canadian-based online pharmacies form advertising as well.

The DOJ/Google settlement appears to reflect the false rhetoric espoused by the U.S. government and pharmaceutical industry that only U.S. online pharmacies can be safe. Bate knows this is not true based on his own empirical studies, which found that properly credentialed non-U.S. online pharmacies sell genuine medication at a lower cost and require a prescription.  By blocking safe Canadian pharmacies from advertising to Americans on Google, it is more difficult for needy Americans to find them. Bate writes:

Google’s current policy removes the potentially lethal sellers, but by disallowing credentialed foreign sites from advertising it will harm public health. The tens of millions of uninsured Americans who cannot afford their drugs will go online to circumvent this obstruction. If they are unaware of pharmacychecker.com’s credentialing, they will play Russian roulette and may end up buying a lethal product.

With media outlets and politicians inundated with a voracious pharmaceutical industry public relations assault that seeks to paint all non-U.S. online pharmacies as rogue, the victim here is the American seeking affordable medication online because he or she can’t afford it here at home. Bate wrote: “What is surprising is that independent groups, like Consumer Reports and AARP, have bought into this industry rhetoric or have failed to properly explain to their members that foreign doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous.” (more…)

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