PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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New PharmacyChecker Slideshow Shows How to Take Advantage of Lower Drug Prices Abroad

Millions of American consumers are buying medication online from pharmacies outside the U.S. at much lower prices than at home but some are not doing it safely.  Since 2003, we at PharmacyChecker.com have been checking the credentials of online pharmacies to help you stay safe, as well as making it easy for you to compare and find the lowest drug prices.  For those who may be unfamiliar with how we do this, we’ve created a slideshow.

The slideshow explains that the main reason many drug prices are lower online is because drugs are often much less expensive outside the United States. It’s that plain and simple. People can save as much as 95% on their medications. And while the U.S. FDA discourages people from getting their medication this way and generally considers it not to be legal, no one has ever been prosecuted for purchasing medication for themselves this way.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of websites selling medication are not verified for safety, don’t require a prescription, and may sell counterfeit, adulterated and expired medication. In contrast, medications ordered from online pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker.com are dispensed from licensed pharmacies that require valid prescriptions and meet high safety standards.

I hope the slideshow is helpful and encourage you to share it with others.

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Pirfenidone: Why Is It $94,000 in the U.S., But $2,000 Elsewhere?

In the article “I.P.F., Not Aging, Could Be Causing Breathlessness” in the New York Times this week, columnist Jane Brody explains that the drug Esbriet (pirfenidone) can “slow the loss of lung function and significantly reduce deaths” from an incurable lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or I.P.F.

The article notes that Esbriet was approved in the U.S. in 2014 and now 14,000 people have begun treatment, which costs $94,000 per year. The article also notes that the drug has been available for several years in other parts of the world (including Japan, India, Europe and Canada).

What the article does not mention is that this incredible drug can be purchased at just a fraction of the cost through many online pharmacies which dispense it from licensed pharmacies outside the U.S – where the cost is only about $2,000 per year, rather than $94,000 per year.

The standard dose of Esbriet is 801 mg per day – 3 capsules, each containing 267 mg of pirfenidone, according to the NIH website DailyMed. Outside the U.S., pirfenidone is sold as 200 mg capsules (so 4 capsules would provide a similar dose – 800 mg). In the U.S., the price of each 267 mg capsule (without any discount) comes out to about $85, while a 200 mg capsule from outside the U.S. costs about $1.50 (prices listed at http://www.pharmacychecker.com/generic/price-comparison/pirfenidone/200+mg/)

Why must Americans (and our government programs) pay 40 to 50 times more than to get this drug in the U.S. than from elsewhere?

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A New Non-Profit Is Born – Prescription Justice Action Group – To Help Americans If Their Meds Are Taken by the FDA

pjag_banner_med

Today, as the Obama administration hosted a “public” forum (think invitation only) about pharmaceutical innovation, access and affordability, I announced the formation of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Americans get justice when it comes to prescription drug prices: Prescription Justice Action Group (PJAG). Whereas the administration’s public forum ignored personal drug importation, PJAG is providing guidance to Americans on what to do if their prescription drug orders are refused import by the FDA so they can try to have their medications released.

For about fifteen years, tens of millions of Americans have purchased medication from outside the U.S. –usually ordering it online. They do it because they want to save money or they really cannot afford the medication here at local pharmacies. The fact is that it has become a lifeline of lower cost medications for Americans.

But a new law – Section 708 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act – gives the FDA expanded powers to destroy your personally imported medications, whether bought from a Canadian, Indian, Turkish or U.K. pharmacy. That doesn’t mean they will. It just means that they can. That law became effective over a month ago, and we haven’t heard of increased FDA seizures and destructions of international prescription orders.

The FDA has stated, and we have re-affirmed on our blog and main website, that under most circumstances it’s technically illegal to import prescription medication for personal use. But is it really? Is it always?

Section 708 allows the FDA to detain and potentially destroy your prescription order if it appears to be misbranded, unapproved, counterfeit or adulterated. If they take your adulterated or counterfeit drugs then the FDA has done their job. Misbranded or unapproved drugs, in contrast, could be entirely safe and effective medications, the same or foreign versions of the ones you buy in the U.S., but much less expensive. Under Section 708, you must be notified by the FDA if they take your prescription drug import, and you have 20 days to challenge them on their action. PJAG, in consultation with legal advisers, believes that you can make a good case that FDA should not destroy the medication but instead send it to you.

There are many dangerous online pharmacies out there from which you don’t want to buy or import medication. We call them rogue online pharmacies. But if you import a genuine, safe and effective medication, one that was purchased from a PharmacyChecker.com-approved online pharmacy and you get a notification from the FDA telling you that your prescription drug order is subject to destruction…PJAG!

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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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American Consumer Calls Drug Prices in America “Extortion” In an Open Letter to PharmacyChecker.com

I had a conversation with Gabriel Levitt from PharmacyChecker.com the other day, as I was in search of a Canadian Pharmacy that I could travel to and obtain affordable, needed, drugs. The reason for this “travel” was the recognition of the newest law (the new FDA bill) on the books in the U.S. that any drug under the value of $2,500.00 would (or could) be seized and destroyed by border security agents.

My particular situation is this: I am on blood thinner (anti-coagulate) medicine. I must continue on this medicine for the remainder of my life. A few years ago I had open heart surgery to repair a defective Mitral valve inside my heart. I elected to have an artificial valve installed instead of a “bio” valve (Porcine or bovine). After weighing the options it was pointed out to me that “bio” replacements would not last as long as artificial valves have proved to be. If any of you have had open heart surgery in the past you will share my desire to not do that again. Very painful recovery and many weeks of gaining strength back.

This brings up the only downside of the artificial, compared to “bio”, replacement. My blood has to be thinned and monitored to prevent clots from forming around the replacement valve. This requires the drug Coumadin to be taken daily. All is fine so far.

Here’s the real kick – If I have to have any procedures that might involve bleeding, be it surgery or even as insignificant as tooth extraction, I must wean myself off Coumadin and bridge this time period with one of the heparin derivative drugs. One of the least expensive of these is Lovenox.
The cost of this drug in the US is approximately $1,200.00 per box of ten Syringes. I must self-administer twice a day so this is only a five day supply. My experience with this medicine is that I must refill and administer more before my Coumadin goes takes effect. Ok, so that is another $1,200.00 out of pocket. Even when I was on Medicare part D my out of pocket was still about $420.00 per purchase.

I was in contact with one of the pharmacies in Canada that your organization verifies. The cost at the Canadian pharmacy was about $140.00 per box of ten syringes. Same manufacturer, same dosage, and same freshness.

I ask you, what is the $1,060.00 extra for? I know that the Canadian pharmacies are not selling me this drug at their cost, so they are making a profit, but why the huge difference?

It makes me think that the drug companies here, in the states, are being allowed to make OBSCENE profits by a significant number of members of congress. What else would explain the very large difference in pricing?

This brings us back to the enactment, with lightning speed, this new law provides for the destruction of mail order drugs from “over the border “pharmacies. The law makers established a price of $2,500.00 as a criteria to destroy (or not) these drugs. Interesting!

Well, that is my story. I know I am not the only US citizen that is being held hostage by those that have a vested interest in keeping US drug prices at an apparent, artificial, level. I think the word extortion is repugnant but does it apply is this discussion?  Unfortunately, I think so.

To Mr. Gabriel Levitt and the good folks at Pharmacy Checker please feel free to use this letter in any effort to help bring down the cost of drugs in this country. In the short run, to rescind any attempt by lawmakers to prevent my obtaining affordable drugs from Canadian Pharmacies.

Thank you for reading my story. I am not alone.

Mike M
Syracuse, NY

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