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Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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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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What do Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders have in common? Support for Drug Importation.

Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Yesterday, our CEO, Tod Cooperman, MD, applauded leading presidential candidates for supporting legal reforms to make it easier for Americans to buy lower cost medications from other countries.

“With millions of Americans doing this safely for more than a dozen years, it’s time for our government to stop threatening and scaring consumers and simply do what’s right: Make personal drug importation fully legal. Every presidential candidate should support this,” says Dr. Cooperman.

To read the full press release, go here: http://www.pharmacychecker.com/news/trump-clinton-sanders-support-drug-importation.asp.

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John and Laura Arnold Foundation Helping To Tackle High Drug Prices…But What about Personal Drug Importation?

With its gift of $7.2 million to fund various research projects, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation gave a boost this week to the cause of lowering drug prices in America. According to the Foundation’s press release: “The research projects will focus on analyzing how regulatory policies and programs impact drug pricing, drug development, and patients’ access to medication.”

The lion’s share of the funds will go to the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center’s Evidence Driven Drug Pricing Project. Led by Dr. Peter Bach, the effort pursues strategies to evaluate the relative effectiveness of medications. The goal of Dr. Bach’s project is to make sure that medications are priced according to how well they actually work. Sounds like common sense, but too often medications that often don’t work are widely prescribed, and very expensive!

The money will also go toward various evidence-based studies looking into the workings of the drug development pipeline, state and federal regulations that affect Medicaid drug purchasing, and alternative Medicaid purchasing models that tie reimbursement to patient health outcomes.

One smaller project caught my eye, because it looks at pharmaceutical regulations and law that affect innovation. The Brigham and Woman’s Hospital’s Program on Regulations, Therapeutics, and Law will receive $748,445 to analyze existing regulations enacted to incentivize pharmaceutical innovation. The press release reads: “Researchers will analyze programs and incentives such as tax breaks, market exclusivity protections, and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) fast-track approval pathways.”

In looking at regulations and law, the cause of lower drug prices would be well served by a research project dedicated to evaluating the effects of federal restrictions on prescription drug importation. Ostensibly, drug importation restrictions are in place to prevent unsafe and counterfeit medications from reaching patients, but we know that they also curtail access to lower cost, safe and effective medication as well. That’s why millions of Americans buy foreign medication online despite the prohibiting regulations.

New research would help determine a more suitable regulatory framework to protect patient health, but also expand access to more affordable medication through safe personal drug importation. This recent grant by the John and Laura Arnold Foundation is its second in the area of prescription drug prices. Three’s a charm!

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