It’s no secret Americans are struggling to afford their medications. A quick skim of crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe.com and Fundly.com, sets the grim scene of rising prescription drug costs in the United States. As a result, many Americans are ordering from online pharmacies located in other countries that offer the price relief folks can rarely swing here at home without the aid of insurance or strategic use of discount coupons.
A 2019 survey conducted by the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation shows that cost is the top reason more and more Americans are ordering their prescriptions from online pharmacies in Canada. 94% of Americans cite high drug prices in the U.S. as reason for ordering from abroad.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) requested an investigation into drug price increases among the Medicare Part D program’s 20 most widely-prescribed medications over a five-year period. The investigation, conducted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, found that average annual drug price increases were 12%, about 10 times higher than the rate of inflation. One drug, Nitrostat, increased by 477% during the five-year period. PharmacyChecker decided to find out what the savings would be from international online pharmacies for cash payers on these medications. The average potential prescription savings is 80%, further evidence that seniors can benefit from lower drug prices outside the U.S. when their pharmacy benefits are inadequate.
Adding a little spice to this research, we found that 70% of these 20 medications, the ones sold in U.S. pharmacies, are foreign-made, imported drugs. This shows that importation is legal for drug companies that make medications overseas. The countries where they are made get the manufacturing jobs; we get the higher prices!
And what about those drugs made in the U.S., often in Puerto Rico? You can buy those drugs cheaper in Canada. Synthroid is a perfect example. Synthroid, sold in Canada, is made in Puerto Rico and can be purchased for 15 cents a pill, compared to $1.68 a pill in the U.S.: a 93% savings for the same drug.
Here’s a crazy one: The medication Premarin is made in Canada. It’s $6.93 a pill at a U.S. pharmacy, but can be bought online and filled from a U.K. pharmacy for 17 cents: a 98% savings. In this case, the drug made in Canada is cheaper in the U.K. than in Canada.
And what about Nitrostat, the drug that increased by 477% over the past five years? It’s 80 cents a pill in the U.S. and only 28 cents in Canada. The drug is made in Puerto Rico.
Part D open enrollment for 2018 has begun and will continue through December 7th. During this time, if you’re a Medicare enrollee and do not have a plan, then you should pick one. If you already have a plan, you should shop around because plans change! Premiums and deductibles go up or down, drugs get dropped from formularies, new plans come into the marketplace and others exit. Our website, MedicareDrugPlans.com, has a variety of basic plan information to help you in your search, such as premiums, deductibles, coverage gaps, and whether the plan premium is waived if you have a lower income. The most useful thing about MedicareDrugPlans.com is that you can read ratings and reviews about the plans by people who actually know because they use them. That means that if you were using Part D during 2017, you have the opportunity to help others and rate your plan.
MedicareDrugPlans.com is a supplemental information site to maximize your research when choosing your plan. However, the best place to finalize and select your plan is the on the government’s website. There, you will enter in your zip code, Medicare info, names of the medications you take, and find out which plans cover those medications.
As usual, current plan ratings and reviews don’t paint a pretty picture of Medicare Part D.