To hear it from the pharmaceutical industry, Medicare Part D, the federal program that helps American seniors and the disabled cover medication costs, is a highly popular, successful, low-cost program. That’s bunk. According to a new paper, written by authors Marc-Andrew Gagon, PhD. and Sidney Wolfe, MD (Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration and Public Citizen, respectively), drug prices covered under Medicare Part D are wildly inflated compared to drug prices in all other countries. Ok. We knew that already. That’s why seniors continue to import medication from other countries! But seriously, this report includes fresh data and critical analysis to reminds us, and hopefully convince Congress, that not only are we paying too much as taxpayers and consumers but Americans often cannot afford to take prescribed medication at all, and that leads to more hospitalizations and higher healthcare costs.

We’ve noted on many occasions the government’s survey data showing that about five million Americans import prescription drugs for personal use due to cost. About 750,000 are seniors, most who are subject to the coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” of Part D, which, despite improvements under Obamacare, still leads to millions of seniors struggling to afford medication. Their decision to buy more affordable medication internationally makes sense. According to the new report, even the rebated brand name drugs under Part D are almost twice (198%) the cost paid in countries that make up the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – the most advanced economies.

The report is called “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Medicare Part D pays needlessly high brand-name drug prices compared with other OECD countries and U.S. government programs.” You can find it here. (more…)

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Yesterday, in the New York Times, Andrew Pollack reported on the swelling chorus of groups, politicians, and consumers who are sickened by the price of cancer drugs and medication costs generally. They are calling for pharmaceutical companies to justify the outrageous costs of medication.

As part of this swell of frustration and anger about drug prices, over 100 oncologists are calling for the U.S. government to take concrete steps to bring down the prices on expensive cancer medications, many which cost over $100,000/year. One of those steps is allowing importation of cancer drugs across borders for personal use. (What a novel idea!). Despite the federal restrictions on the practice, five million Americans already import prescription drugs across borders for personal use because the costs of medicine are too high domestically. The imports help people afford medications that they would otherwise go without. While people are not prosecuted for doing so as long as the imports are for personal use, expressly legalizing safe prescription importation from licensed pharmacies in other countries is a great idea for all medications, not just cancer medications, and would probably cause medication prices to fall at U.S. pharmacies.

Personal drug importation is just one step among several that doctors are calling on to improve access to affordable cancer medication. Others include allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices like the Veteran’s Administration does; banning deals (“pay-to-delay”) between brand and generic drug companies, in which the former pays off the latter to postpone introducing a lower cost generic drug; and reigning in patent terms so that lower cost generics can come to market faster.

In reading the New York Times article, the tone of criticism reported on was veering toward visceral disgust that so many seem to have with the pharmaceutical industry. But the Wall Street Journal was on this issue, too. In “Doctors Object to High Cancer Drug Prices,” Jeanne Whalen writes: “The doctors focus attention on the financial burden to patients, saying the out-of-pocket costs are bankrupting many just as they’re fighting a deadly illness.”

To conclude, recall that last month we brought you a real story of an American family facing financial ruin due to the cost of a cancer medication. Lisa wrote:

“We are going broke, will probably lose our home and my husband will probably never be able to retire (even though his body is breaking down from 40+ years of a very physical job as a pipe fitter. I (the wife), am permanently disabled. We will die homeless before this drug ever comes within an affordable price.

“Why doesn’t anyone bring this to the press? Why does Congress and Obamacare turn a blind eye? How many hundreds have to die before this drug and options are researched.”

The media coverage mentioned in this post shows that people are bringing this to the press. It’s exactly the press coverage that Lisa and her family deserve, not to mention the tens of millions of Americans who don’t fill prescriptions each year because of cost! Now will the government do something or are they too under the yoke of the pharmaceutical industry lobbying juggernaut?

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Stay safe while shopping for affordable medications online

Stay safe while shopping for affordable medications online

Americans sometimes want to know if rogue online pharmacies, especially foreign ones, REALLY sell bad medication or if it’s just one big conspiracy by the evil pharmaceutical industry to scare Americans away from saving a lot of money. Well, as critical of big pharma’s efforts to scare consumers away from lower cost and safe medication as I have been, the answer is, REALLY, yes. The dangers of buying a fake or otherwise harmful medication online from a foreign or domestic source, or even a real medication when you are not under the supervision of your healthcare provider, are real and serious.

What we know better than most is that consumers, empowered with the right information, can pay a lot less for medication by shopping online, internationally, and also avoid rogue online pharmacies. The right online pharmacy can save a person’s life and their finances because it sells safe medication at much lower cost than a local pharmacy – but the wrong online pharmacy could kill you.

We’ve updated our website’s content about rogue online pharmacies to better inform consumers, healthcare providers, and regulators who want to avoid such sites and teach others how to do so as well. We do give a list of rogue online pharmacies but it is far from comprehensive. Other companies and organizations spend a lot of effort compiling lists and identifying rogue online pharmacy sites (with tens of thousands of websites, many defunct): PharmacyChecker.com is in the business of verifying and identifying the safest and most affordable online pharmacies, not listing the thousands of rogue ones.

As we explain in the updated section of our website, when looking to buy meds online, the best way to avoid a rogue online pharmacy is to stick with websites approved by PharmacyChecker.com and other noted certification and verification organizations, specifically the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP), LegitScript, and the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). NABP’s VIPPS and LegitScript’s verification program validate safe and legal online pharmacies, but in a variety of ways wrongly conflate rogue sites with safe international online pharmacies, which can actually mislead consumers (see Rx Rights’ report on NABP and Techdirt’s description of LegitScript’s practices). That’s where the pharmaceutical industry conspiracy stuff comes in! CIPA’s online pharmacy standards are similar to, but not the same as, PharmacyChecker.com’s, and many of their members are also approved in our program – but we can’t vouch for those that are not. Regardless of the differences, all of us want to see consumers avoid dangerous drug-selling websites often referred to as rogue online pharmacies – and some of us also want to maximize your online access to safe and affordable medication!

Photo Credit: © Peterhermesfurian | Dreamstime.comPoison Pill Package Skull Photo

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FDA Warns about “Potentially” Counterfeit Diazepam in Central Africa; We Say Buy Locally and Save!

This diazepam - generic Valium - is really haloperidol.

This diazepam – generic Valium – is really haloperidol.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning last week that a drug product sold in Central Africa, mislabeled as diazepam, which was actually the drug haloperidol (for schizophrenia), had caused 700 adverse reactions, such as acute contractions of the muscles in the face and neck. While there are no reports that the product entered the U.S., FDA cautioned Americans who take diazepam that it could, potentially, be sold over the Internet and to be on the lookout for the pills you see in the image to your left. Sound advice!

For the backstory checkout the World Health Organization’s Medical Product Alert.

Diazepam is the generic name for the anti-anxiety medication commonly known as Valium. It is a controlled prescription drug, meaning one associated with abuse use and addiction.

We recommend to U.S. and all consumers that you not buy controlled medication internationally from an online pharmacy. Online pharmacies that sell Valium, and all controlled drugs, internationally are not eligible for the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program. (more…)

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Online Pharmacies and Freedom: Happy 4th of July from PharmacyChecker!

U.S. flag and pillBack in 1776, America’s Founding Fathers agreed that a government should not deprive its people of their natural freedoms. So when I think about the tyranny of high drug prices in America this July 4th – which causes millions of Americans to go without needed medication and face financial hardship – I’m also thinking about the Declaration of Independence and the freedoms it promises. And I write with humility that safe online pharmacies offering lower drug prices from other countries have a lot to do with helping Americans achieve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Life: There are people living in the United States who, according to their testimonials, would lose their lives if not for safe international online pharmacies.

Liberty: The Internet is a tool of freedom for millions when it comes to access to affordable medication. The Internet helps educate people that medication prices are much lower in other countries and provides access to legally operating and safe pharmacies from which they can obtain affordable medication.

Pursuit of Happiness: In this case I am thinking about the happiness of saving money and the fact that Thomas Jefferson was talking, at least in part, about financial health and security when he penned this phrase. But saving money is not just about getting a “better deal” although there is nothing wrong with that. It’s about the grandparent who pursues happiness by saving a $1000 a year buying medication from a foreign pharmacy so that he or she can visit their grandchildren this July 4th.

For these reasons, at PharmacyChecker.com, we believe it is an honor to help Americans who are going online for lower cost medication by identifying the safest online pharmacy options at which people can buy medication they can afford. By doing so, we enable them to both protect themselves from rogue online pharmacies and their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy 4th of July!

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Cancer drug costs and desperation: a reality for Americans

This blog post concerns real people who are desperate, angry, and facing terminal illness because of the cost of a cancer medication. A woman named Lisa recently placed a comment on a blog post we wrote back in March 2013 called “The Price of Gleevec: A Tale of Two Supreme Courts.”  We noted at the time that the Indian Supreme Court told drug company Novartis to go fly a kite in its effort to stop lower cost generic versions of Gleevec, a cancer medication, from being sold in India, and that the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments against a practice known as Pay-to-Delay involving a different medication.

But this post is not about policies and intellectual property or patent rights, the rightness or wrongness of India’s looser patent laws, pay-to-delay, personal drug importation or online pharmacies. It’s just about a woman’s husband and others who have cancer and can’t afford the medicine they need to get better or live.

Lisa gave me permission to re-publish her comment as a blog post here. I have made very, very slight edits, as you can see if you look at the original comment.

Lisa wrote:

This is very interesting news and gives us a little hope. My husband has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). He has been on Gleevec (here in So. California for the past 12 years. I thought I should mention Gleevec here in the U.S. is $10,600.00 a month for 400mg (30 pills). I thought should mention this because your prices listed here in the U.S. are inaccurate. That would bring the total cost to $126,000 a year.

We are going broke, will probably lose our home and my husband will probably never be able to retire (even though his body is breaking down from 40+ years of a very physical job as a pipe fitter. I (the wife), am permanently disabled. We will die homeless before this drug ever comes within an affordable price.

Many children and adults are cutting their pills in half, which defects the purpose. They too, will die before seeing Gleevec reach an affordable price here in the U.S.

All the countries you listed in the article, do NOT accept U.S. insurance companies and/or ObamaCare.

Why doesn’t anyone bring this to the press? Why does Congress and ObamaCare turn a blind eye? How many hundreds have to die before this drug and options are researched. I have written many letters to Norvartis, only to be ignored. I have written to Media Outlets only to be ignored. Now I am desperately asking for your help in bringing this to the media and anyone that will listen. We and many others are scared out of our minds. We are really loosing hope and it is tearing families apart. Some patients are becoming suicidal, because they don’t know how they are going to afford the next month supply of Gleevec. Novartis (GREEDARTIS) should be ashamed of themselves. You should research the substantial increases (quarterly), since the drug first went on the market. It will blow you mind! What if this was your child or loved one?

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Is Viagra really safe to buy online? The truth.

Is Viagra really safe to buy online? The truth.

Viagra, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s name for a drug called sildenafil citrate, is the most sought after medication on the Internet. You can save a lot of money buying Viagra online, but you can also risk getting a fake or tainted product which endangers your health. Here’s how to stay safe and save money. (more…)

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If not treated properly, the breathing condition known as asthma is deadly. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nine people die each day from asthma and in 2009 there were 3,388 deaths. Flovent is an inhaled corticosteroid that treats asthma.  Flovent not only makes breathing easier for asthma sufferers, it helps prevent severe attacks that can cause hospitalization.

But Flovent can be prohibitively expensive, especially if you are uninsured or your health insurance will not cover this medication.  Kids are often the victim of high asthma drug prices. A 3-month supply of Flovent Diskus (fluticasone propionate) 250 mcg inhalers costs around $778 at a local pharmacy.  Based on a typical dosage, that works out to $3,112 per year.  That’s a huge number considering the median family income in the U.S.  is about $52,000 a year –and of course tens of millions of families make due with much, much less. According to one academic study, failure to take your asthma medication often leads to “decreased quality of life, lost productivity, increased health care utilization, and even the risk of death.”

Pharmacy discount cards can help the situation.  With a discount card the price for a 3-month supply might drop down to $684 at a U.S. pharmacy for a 3-month supply, a savings of $131.

But the costs are far lower in other countries for the same medication. Instead of calling it Flovent Diskus, GlaxoSmithKline markets fluticasone propionate as Flixotide Discus, which is sold in licensed pharmacies throughout the world.  The foreign version of Flovent Diskus 250 mcg inhaler can be purchased online for about $123 for a 3-month supply or $492 a year. That’s a potential discount of about 84% and a savings of $2619 per year off the price of Flovent Diskus sold in the U.S.!

According to the CDC, about one in 10 children have asthma.  It’s a serious but treatable condition.  There are effective medications like Flovent Diskus, which is approved for children as young as four years old.   My son suffered from cold-induced asthma as a smaller child and it’s scary, and that’s why this particular condition makes me so mad. Parents often can’t afford asthma medications and sometimes must bring their kids to the hospital when their asthma flares up. I think that’s unforgivable and that no parent should have to watch their child suffer, and yet they do from the high cost of medications in the U.S.

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The media rage these days when it comes to prescription drug prices is three-fold: 1) generic drug price spikes of literally thousands of percent, 2) specialty medications that cost $1.000/pill, and 3) cancer treatment costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year! We’re glad the media is loudly covering the public health crisis of high drug prices, but its focus of late seems to take the heat off of never ending brand name drug price increases and the pharmaceutical companies that charge those prices. We haven’t forgotten. For us the heat is on: including a loud reminder that these brand drugs are sold much more affordably outside the U.S., and can be found and safely purchased online.

To help us, I looked to the research of David Belk, MD. Dr. Belk, who is concerned with, and voraciously researches the insanity of healthcare costs, publishes a website called True Cost of Healthcare. His research shows that brand name drug prices increased by 13 times the rate of inflation over the past two and a half years. These are medications for which there is no available generic in the U.S. He looked at 335 drugs, their wholesale prices and tracked their increases from the October 2012 to the beginning of 2015. Only one drug, Norvir, actually came down in price. Dr. Belk writes: “All other brand name prescription drugs on my list went up a minimum of 9% and an average of just over 40% in price in only 2 1/2 years.”

While these brand drugs aren’t $1,000 per pill like Sovaldi, many Americans really can’t afford them. Below are two examples of brand name drugs that if purchased outside the U.S., would potentially save an American $4,000 a year and/or prevent that American from going without a prescribed, essential medicine for Diabetes or Asthma.

Januvia 100mg (siptagliptin), a drug that treats type-2 diabetes could cost you $1,149 for a three month supply at a local U.S. pharmacy. With a prescription discount coupon, you might get it for $963. If that’s too much, then brand name Januvia, marketed by MSD (a subsidiary of Merck), can be purchased online for $103.50 from an international online pharmacy– a percentage savings of 91% and a cost savings exceeding $1,000 over 3 months. Over a year, the cost savings is about $4,000.

Another example is Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate/salmeterol), a popular asthma medication that is out of reach for many Americans due to cost. A three month supply of the 250/50mcg inhaler can run you $1,050 in a local U.S. pharmacy. With a discount card the price might be reduced to $874. At a verified international online pharmacy, the drug called Seretide Accuhaler, the name brand used by GlaxoSmithKline to market fluticasone propionate/salmeterol in several countries, is only $105: another three-month savings of $1,000 and annual savings of $4,000.

This summer at PharmacyChecker.com we’re going to keep the heat on the pharmaceutical industry with lots of examples of the crazy costs of normal brand name drugs in the U.S., and cooling things down for consumers with lots of savings you can find online.

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