No Need To Go International When Buying Generics

While millions of Americans cannot afford brand name drugs in the United States, clearly this is not the case for generics – and the prices here keep getting lower! Marc’s, an Ohio-based retail pharmacy, has dropped prices for their generic drugs to a record breaking low – now charging just $1.98 for 30-day supplies of some of their generic drugs. Twenty-seven different generics are offered at this price.

Marc’s low-cost pricing comes as a response to their retail competition doing the same. In order to compete with chain store rivals like Target, Wal-mart and Kmart, smaller, local pharmacies are offering some of the lowest prices. Another example, Discount Drug Mart, – also in Ohio – dropped many of their generics to $1.99 for a month’s supply; this led Marc’s to sneak in at a penny less.

If you’re buying online, Costco.com has very low generic drug prices as well. You can compare prices on www.pharmacychecker.com.

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New Drug Savings Options Needed as 43,000 Illinois Residents Lose Benefits

An estimated 43,000 residents of Illinois will find it more difficult, if not impossible, to afford their prescription medication due to heavy budget cuts, according to the Chicago Tribune. Specifically, funding for the Illinois Cares Rx program, which  subsidizes the cost of medicine and payments associated with Medicare drug benefits, will be cut in half, from $107.4 million to $53.7 million. Illinois Cares Rx includes people with a Medicare drug plan and others who have no drug benefits at all.

With the cuts in place beginning September 1st, 2011, the Illinois Cares Rx program will only be available to those residents earning 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level – or $21,780 annually, down from a higher threshold of 240%, or $27,610. Even the 173,500 remaining in the program will “face higher co-payments for prescriptions — in some cases, double the amount they were previously paying.(more…)

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Besides the obvious – access to cheap generic alternatives for once exorbitantly priced prescriptions – this year’s patent expirations on blockbuster brand-name drugs means even more good news for American consumers. A U.S. News and World Report article suggests the Patent Cliff as one of the reasons for the forecasted Medicare savings. Access to low-cost generics on popular drugs like Lipitor cuts spending significantly for plan sponsors, and U.S. officials have announced that enrollees paying for prescription drugs through Medicare Part D will not see an increase in premiums, in contrast with prior years. Rather, the yearly fees will decrease slightly – from an average of $30.76 in 2011 to $30.00 in 2012. All current plan premiums can be found on MedicareDrugPlans.com – Compare Costs and Features.

Moreover, plan enrollees are now receiving a 50% discount on brand name drugs purchased through the coverage gap. However, brand name drug prices continue to increase, which means the discount’s importance is less pronounced. (more…)

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PharmacyChecker.com was mentioned this week in a U.S. News and World Report article entitled How to Cut Your Drug Costs. Listed among other effective ways to save money on prescription drugs, the article notes that PharmacyChecker “compares prices of mail-order pharmacies, and can help you find the lowest posted prices.

How to Cut Your Drug Costs reminds readers that buying drugs from Canada – and elsewhere overseas – is technically illegal, but it quotes AARP: “Over the past decade millions of Americans have ignored U.S. law to seek cheaper prices from Canada, most often by mail order.” Notably, AARP found Canadian prices for Lipitor to be about a third less than they are here in the U.S. The fact that the FDA has (to our knowledge) never prosecuted an individual for importing a three-month supply of personal, non-controlled drugs with a valid prescription, means that they too understand the importance of access to safe and affordable medication. (more…)

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More Chain Stores Pick Up $2 Generic Medicare Drug Plan Option

Earlier this month we reported on the UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy Saver plan for Medicare Part D. This plan offers enrollees many of their generic prescriptions for just $2 (some 30- and some 90-day supplies) at Kroger and Safeway chain stores. Our research found that although a few popular generics were not covered by the plan, there was a fairly low co-pay anyway, so cost-wise, UnitedHealthcare has presented a solid Medicare drug plan.

One of our concerns was that those individuals who do not live near a Kroger or Safeway chain will not have easy access to their prescriptions. Well, we have good news to pass on – last week, DrugStoreNews.com announced that Bloom, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Food Lion, Harveys, Publix Super Markets, Sweetbay Supermarket and Target chains have all joined as participating pharmacies.

This expansion is great, though we still encourage you to compare this plan with others on MedicareDrugPlans.com. It’s important to fit all plan variables to your needs. And remember, just ten more days until open enrollment closes!

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Just in time for the 2011 open enrollment period, UnitedHealth Group Inc. has announced that it will allow its AARP MedicareRx and AARP MedicareComplete Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan participants to purchase 30-day supplies of many generic drugs from Kroger and Safeway chain stores for just $2; 90-day supplies may cost just $4. Between these two pharmacy groups, 397 generic drugs are covered in the program, and both chain stores offer the program via mail-order pharmacy (Prescription Solutions) as well.

Simvastatin, the generic for Zocor – a cholesterol lowering drug, and Metoprolol succinate, the generic of the high blood pressure drug Toprol, are just two of many $2 drugs found on the monthly supply list. You can find a 90-day supply of Ibuprofren 400 – 800mg for just $5. To see which other generics are listed, visit the Pharmacy Saver information and search page. (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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