PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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U.S. Drug Prices Increase by 13%, Six Times the Inflation Rate; Prices Decrease Abroad

A new report from Express Scripts, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit managers, shows that between September 2011 and September 2012, U.S. brand name prescription drug prices increased 13.3% — over six times the rate of inflation, which was only 2%.

What does this mean for American consumers? The answer is not simply that Americans will pay more for their medicine, increasing the profits of drug companies. It’s even more depressing than that. Tens of millions of Americans either do not fill or take prescribed medications due to cost, and an estimated 25 million Americans report becoming sicker because of it. With higher drug prices, we expect incidences of illness and hospitalizations to rise, with costs passed on to the American taxpayer. We lose as both patients and taxpayers, and the costs are staggering: a New England Health Institute report estimates prescription non-adherence costs to be almost $300 billion.

Americans who cannot afford these rising prices can access safe international online pharmacies to avoid going without needed medication. In contrast to rising drug prices in America, brand prices at these international pharmacies have actually decreased. Our latest drug price analysis shows that the savings available through these online pharmacies – on brand name drugs – have increased from March 2011. Today, online savings are 85%; in March of last year, they were 80%. More Americans taking needed medication will mean less sickness and hospitalizations that end up increasing healthcare costs funded by us, the taxpayers.

If you choose to order from an international online pharmacy, make sure it is safe. Pharmacies approved by PharmacyChecker.com are licensed, have licensed pharmacists, and require prescriptions. Look for the PharmacyChecker.com seal of approval, seen below, and make sure it links to a profile hosted by PharmacyChecker.com.

[Click seal for sample profile hosted on PharmacyChecker.com].

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Senator Grassley Signals a Possible Comeback for Drug Importation Legislation

With drug importation champion Senator Byron Dorgan’s departure from the Senate, advocates for lower drug prices were concerned that no one would step up to the plate. Raising the issue from the dead, in an interview yesterday with IowaPolitics.com, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who supported the Dorgan bill, has boldly picked up the torch unambiguously voicing his continuing support of the legislation to allow lower priced drug imports.

Senator Grassley’s frames the issue as follows:

“Giving American consumers access to imported prescription drugs would force pharmaceutical companies to re-evaluate this unfair pricing strategy and drive U.S. prices down. It’s a free-trade issue. American consumers are able to buy almost every other product available from other countries. The same should be true for prescription drugs.” (more…)

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Pay-to-Delay Settlements Benefit Companies, Not Consumers

We often report about policies affecting access to safe and affordable medication through personal drug importation, and advocate for laws that help American patients – not corporate profits. Like safe personal drug importation, faster access to generic drugs right here at home would make prescription drugs more affordable for uninsured and under-insured Americans. Unfortunately, last month the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made a decision that adversely affects consumers but benefits pharmaceutical manufactures of both brand and generic drugs. The court decided to decline a review of the “pay-to-delay” ruling of Arkansas Carpenters Health and Welfare Fund v. Bayer AG means that, once again, pharmaceutical profits are protected at the expense of greater consumer access to affordable medication.

The decision declares that Bayer, the manufacturer of Cipro, an anti-infection drug, is lawful in paying Barr Laboratories, a large generic drug manufacturing company, $400 million to not challenge Bayer’s patent, which protects the high price now charged for Cipro. When generic drug manufacturers successfully challenge the validity of a patent, they are able to more quickly manufacture and sell low-cost versions of the drugs. Settlements that prevent such patent challenges cost consumers $3.5 billion a year, according to Federal Trade Commissioner Jon Leibowitz.

The 2nd Court’s decision was based on that same court’s earlier ruling of In re Tamoxifen Citrate Antitrust Litigation, 466, F. 3d 187 (2006), which found pay-offs to generic drug companies do not violate anti-trust law. There have been 53 similar pharmaceutical patent settlements, resulting in a variety of drugs with prices out of reach for many American patients.

Such rulings indicate that American patients can only win if the issue is decided differently by the Supreme Court or, and more likely, Congress changes the law.

Senator Herb Kohl is one congressman looking to make this happen. Senator Kohl introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generic Drugs Act (S. 369), legislation, which is still pending, to combat the practice of pay-off agreements between pharmaceutical companies and reduce the number of pay-for-delay settlements that keep generic drugs off the market. This legislation would be a big step in protecting consumer’s interests and health costs, and we hope for its success.

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New AARP Report Shows Dramatic Brand Name Drug Price Hikes

AARP, the leading advocacy group for America’s seniors, released a new study confirming that brand name drug prices were way up – 8.3 % higher on average – in 2009. These large increases occurred during a year  when the consumer price index was actually down by .4% . The report also finds that over the past five years, brand-name drug costs have increased by 41.5%, during which inflation only rose by 13%. Noteworthy in this report is that its authors, responding to pharmaceutical industry critics who contested that prior AARP reports only looked at manufacturer prices, derived the current findings by calculating the average retail prices of over 200 popular brand name drugs.

(more…)

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Avandia and Actos: For Safety and Affordability in Diabetes Drugs, Turn First to Your Doctor, Then to Verified Online Pharmacies

The diabetes drug Avandia has been making headlines due to some longstanding safety and side effect concerns. Some doctors and diabetes patients may now be considering alternative medication, such as Actos.  We think it is important to point out that both drugs cost thousands of dollars per year, and that the price of Avandia, as well as Actos, at U.S. pharmacies is about 5 – 10 times higher than in some other countries.  That in itself is a safety concern – as these drugs remain out of reach to many Americans. Furthermore, people who may switch to Actos will find that it is nearly twice as expensive as Avandia.

The National Diabetes Information Clearing House states, “According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes spend an average of $11,744 a year on health care expenses—more than twice the amount spent by people without diabetes.” What’s more, a 2004 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Veterans Affairs shows that about one in five older diabetes patients cannot afford necessary medications. Out of 812 people surveyed (50 years and older), 20% said they had skipped prescriptions in the past, almost one-third said they had to limit basic needs like heat and food, and 10% borrowed money, all to cover the costs of their diabetes medication. (more…)

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