PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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The Deadly Problem of High Drug Costs and How Personal Drug Importation Helps

High prescription drug prices continue to be a public health crisis in America and the problem appears to have worsened throughout 2012.  The added healthcare costs to the economy caused by Americans not taking their medication have increased from $290 billion to $313 billion. According to a study by the New England Healthcare Institute, over one million Americans die each year because they do not correctly take needed medications or do not take them at all.  Though not all of those deaths are due to cost, it’s fair to estimate that hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying each year because drug costs are the number one reason for people not taking prescribed medications. It follows that all avenues of access to safe and affordable medication save lives, including access to safe online pharmacies with the lowest drug prices, international or domestic, which are a real lifeline for American consumers. Therefore, the federal statute banning personal drug importation under most circumstances doesn’t change the fact that current access to safe personal drug importation is good for the public health.

Savings Online Internationally Have Increased; U.S. Has Best Deals on Generics

Online pharmacy savings increased in 2012 due to lower international pharmacy prices coupled with extreme drug price increases – 13 % — in the United States.  The potential savings on popular brand name drugs increased to 85% in November 2012 from 80% in March 2011, according to research.  Online pharmacy savings are greatest on brand name medications, which when purchased internationally often help Americans save thousands of dollars each year. Some American lives are saved by online access to international pharmacies. In stark contrast to pricing on brand name drugs, U.S. generic drug prices remained globally competitive and offered Americans their best bet on many popular medications available generically at U.S. pharmacies, such as Walmart’s $4 discount programs, and usage of prescription drug discount cards.  And because many popular drugs, such as Lipitor and Plavix, are now sold generically in the U.S., we can expect a shift from international to domestic pharmacies in 2013.

Rogue Online Pharmacies vs. High Drug Prices: Which is More Dangerous?

Rogue online pharmacies are a serious public health threat and need to be put out of business, but the draconian public health consequences of Americans going without needed medication due to cost is a much bigger problem. While one death is too many, very few Americans have died from rogue online pharmacies, domestic or foreign. In dire contrast, as mentioned above, it’s estimated that over one million Americans die each year from not taking needed medication with U.S. drug costs identified as the main culprit behind Americans going without prescribed medication. It’s worth noting that the research showing this sobering data was funded in part by pharmaceutical companies, including PhRMA and Pfizer (Read the research by the New England Health Institute. Follow this hyperlink to the full report; the sponsors are made clear).

The Media Storm of Misinformation on Online Pharmacies

It’s not a freakish editorial accident that the media appears far more interested in reporting about the evils of online pharmacies, especially foreign ones, and their dangers, than the national disgrace of high drug prices causing bankruptcy, sickness, hospitalization and death. The amazing profits of the global pharmaceutical industry are overwhelmingly dependent on charging U.S. consumers the world’s highest prescription drug prices. Preventing Americans from access to lower international drug prices is obviously one of their major goals. The power of the pharmaceutical and the U.S. pharmacy industries, exercised through billions of dollars spent on advertising, lobbying, and media relations, has led to the mainstream media propagating a false narrative about an online marketplace in which it’s not safe to buy lower priced medication from non-U.S. online pharmacies under any circumstances. We’ve written about most of the groups responsible for perpetuating the false narrative:

Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies

Center For Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)

National Association of Board of Pharmacy

Partnership For Safe Medicines

With the exception of CSIP, each of the groups above receives funding or revenue from the pharmaceutical industry, U.S. pharmacy industry, and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They all conflate the evils of dangerous rogue online pharmacies with the safe practice of personal drug importation from safe online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada. While FDA’s policies continue to allow Americans to personally import prescription medication, the FDA now engages fully in promoting the industry-sponsored media script. CSIP is largely the brain child of the White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, an office dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights and strenuously lobbied and influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

The Truth About Online Pharmacies

There are many international online pharmacies, mostly based in Canada, that have operated safely and ethically for over a decade. Independent research demonstrates that there are clearly safe online pharmacies, international and domestic, including those approved by Safe international online pharmacies meet the same or similar standards as U.S. mail-order pharmacies. Their main difference is that they sell medication at a much lower price than U.S. pharmacies. They are not rogue online pharmacies. It’s that simple.

The dangers of rogue online pharmacies are very serious.  Such rogues purport to be real and safe pharmacies when often they are not selling from licensed sources, requiring prescriptions or following other basic pharmacy safety protocols.  Some online pharmacies are even operated by organized crime groups. And some sell deadly products.

Online Pharmacies in 2013

In 2012, law enforcement successfully shutdown more dangerous rogue sites. We should all applaud and encourage further efforts to crackdown on rogue online pharmacies. But we should also expose misinformation being spread by the pharmaceutical industry about safe international online pharmacies. Their misinformation directly leads to Americans going without medication because people are scared away from online pharmacies that sell the medications they need at a price they can afford.

To help protect the ability of Americans to safely import affordable prescription medication, we encourage you to become part of the movement. Join and contact your elected officials now to let them know Americans need access to safe medication that is affordable, including through personal drug importation.

American consumers should be able and encouraged to purchase safe medication at the lowest possible prices, whether domestically or internationally. Federal and state laws that decrease access to safe and affordable medication are neither ethical nor conducive to protecting the public health. Comparing drug prices among licensed and safe pharmacies and making this information available online for consumers helps maximize access while greatly minimizing risks: will proudly as ever continue to do so in 2013.

Happy Holidays and New Year!

Gabriel Levitt
Vice President