PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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The company Blink Health is advertising Canadian drugs on Google, even though it does not sell medication from Canadian pharmacies. Should the company do that? Is that false advertising?

Blink Health advertising under the key phrase “drug prices in Canada”

Launched in early 2016, Blink Health offers consumers the ability to purchase prescription medicines from its app or website and pick them up from local pharmacies in their neighborhoods. This distinguishes them other drug price comparison leaders that offer pharmacy discount cards and coupons for U.S. pharmacies – ours is called the PharmacyChecker Discount Card. Since Blink Health’s launch, several similar services have sprouted, most notably Capsule, which launched in my hometown.

As I understand it, the firm’s goal is to find and increase discounts as it develops greater buying power through greater volumes, also known as economies of scale. I like it and it’s my hope – and belief – that Blink Health is saving people money on their generics. So, hats off to you, Blink Health.

But it’s kind of aggravating that, as I see it, Blink Health is fooling consumers who are looking for lower cost prescription drugs from Canada who will likely not get what they’re looking for when they click that ad. Brand drugs cost way more at Blink Health than in Canada.

As stated in the New York Times about Blink Health (when it launched in 2016), also referring to GoodRx, “The sites cannot help much with brand-name drugs, which are made by a single manufacturer and carry prices that can be as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Americans are looking to Canadian pharmacies – and other international pharmacies – for brand-name drug discounts. Canadian online pharmacies sell the same brand-name medicine available on Blink Health at a huge discount – often averaging 75% savings. That savings goes up to about 90% when accredited online pharmacies in other countries are added to the data.

Adding insult to injury, Google doesn’t even allow actual Canadian pharmacies to advertise to Americans searching for real Canadian drugs. Lots of history. Long story. I’ll be quick.

Google used to use PharmacyChecker verifications to help them vet safe online pharmacy advertisers, which of course included safe Canadian pharmacies. Big Pharma did not like that and neither did U.S. pharmacies. They put pressure on Google and, I believe, the government to do something about it. The result: lower-cost Canadian drugs can’t be advertised on Google to the U.S.

[Quick side note: my detractors, most paid by pharma, will be saying “hey, PharmacyChecker, your ‘so-called’ accredited Canadian online pharmacies process orders filled by pharmacies in other countries, not just Canada. That’s true. But Canadian online pharmacies that are just Canadian also can’t advertise on Google, so cool it.]

In 2010, Google’s policy change made it harder for Americans to find verified Canadian pharmacies, which they desperately needed. That year, the unemployment rate was just off its peak of 10%. About 50 million Americans did not have health insurance. Forty-eight million Americans ages 19-64 – so not including elder Americans – were not filling prescriptions as directed, according to the Commonwealth Fund

We are still in a crisis of high drug prices! So, when I saw Blink Health’s advertising Canadian drugs, I thought it was wrong. The company probably does it because they know Americans are looking for online pharmacies in Canada. I can tell you that some Americans who clicked that ad may have been really pissed off, but others would find, happily, that many generic drugs are very cheap in the U.S., cheaper than in Canada. My favorite PharmacyChecker price analysis last year was showing that popular generics are on average 68% cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada.

In fact, I believe Blink Health had another ad a while back that stated something like: “Don’t bring Canada into this.” That’s fair game. Fine. But tell the truth.

Again, Blink Health has a lot to offer so I’ll give its CEO, Geoffrey Chaiken some bragging rights here. He stated in the Observer:

“Blink is the only service that has the lowest price, backed by a price match guarantee serving every community in America. And since Blink accepts the payment, unlike a coupon, the price you see is the price you pay. With Blink, patients purchase online and then can pick up at their local retailer or choose home delivery.”

That’s cool. But tell the truth in your ads.

Price information from discount coupon websites, services like Blink Health and Capsule, and, hell yeah, online pharmacy verification and price comparisons from PharmacyChecker, are part of the solution for desperate people struggling to afford prescribed drugs. Blink, please don’t mislead patients further in a healthcare market that’s already frustrating enough. Of course, solving the crisis of high drug prices in America, meaning making prices here as low as in Canada, may hurt businesses like Blink Health, GoodRx, Capsule, and PharmacyChecker. But, hey, Americans deserve Prescription Justice.

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