PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
Published by: Applauds Drug Reimportation Amendment Sponsored by McCain and Franken

In their blog yesterday, our friends at, an advocacy group dedicated to helping Americans afford needed prescription medication, applauded Senator McCain’s (R-AZ) amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act to greater facilitate safe and legal personal drug importation of prescription medications from verified Canadian pharmacies. Despite Senator McCain’s emphasis on verification and product authenticity, and co-sponsor Al Franken’s (D-MN) statement on this bill’s role in reducing overall healthcare spending, the amendment failed in a 12-9 vote in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions.

Those against the bill cited drug product safety issues and concerns over the anonymity of the internet. Most vociferously, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) claimed that even with the bill consumers would still not know where there drugs were coming from, failing to recognize or understand that the solution to this problem is written in the amendment, which calls for a verification process that would identify safe online pharmacies. Just such a program was adopted by Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, when she was Governor of Kansas.

For more on this vote, please visit

Click here for a video of the committee hearing. Coverage of the amendment begins at 28:40.

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Medicare Part D Is Not Enough For Many Seniors Suggests IMS Study

Some pharmaceutical industry folks, and their political allies, like to make the point that our nation’s seniors no longer need access to lower-cost foreign medication because they now have new and improved Medicare drug plans. But a new report by IMS indicates that drug costs are having a negative effect on public health, including for our seniors’. Put simply, the data indicates that even with the improvements and savings offered by Part D of Medicare (Medicare’s drug benefit), seniors still struggle to afford the drugs they need.

According to the report, medicine use by 65-year-olds decreased 3.1% — the largest decrease in any age group. As reported in the New York Times, Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at the IMS Institute for Health Informatics, a group that consults for the drug industry, said that seniors appear to be “rationing their care as they struggled to pay rising bills on fixed incomes.” Mr. Kleinrock also said, “We’re reaching a tipping point where patients will actually take that increased cost and use less medicine.” Leigh Purvis, who studies drug prices for the AARP explains that the drugs most often cut are those “where you don’t necessarily develop symptoms when you stop taking them.”

Greatest Prescription Decline for Adults 65 +

Source: IMS Health, LifeLink, Dec 2011; U.S. Census Bureau

Such cutbacks in drug utilization for needed medication are known to lead to increased emergency room visits and greater social costs. Indeed, according to the IMS data, emergency room visits are up by 7.4%. Other studies, such as one by the Commonwealth Fund, have shown that medication nonadherence (skipping your prescribed medication) has been linked to increased emergency room visits, hospital stays, and nursing home admissions. The new IMS report illustrates this correlation as it finds seniors cutting back on needed medication.

Some improvements to Part D of Medicare have already been implemented and the IMS data shows a $1.8 billion decrease in out-of-pocket spending on prescription medication that is likely due to these improvements.  More improvements are on the way as long as the Affordable Care Act is not overturned. However, it’s clear that our seniors continue to suffer negative health consequences because of drug affordability problems.

A recent survey by, a non-profit group advocating for Americans who purchase medication from Canada and other countries, shows that just over half of people who personally import medication through online pharmacies are in Medicare. So even with Part D available to them, they actively seek lower drug prices outside the United States, making it abundantly clear that seniors continue to need the option to personally import prescription medication. It is important that they do so safely, using pharmacies approved by third-party verification programs such as

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U.S. Government Fed Up With Pharmaceutical Prices – FDA To The Rescue?

In March of this year the FDA took the unusual step of allowing an “unapproved” compounded drug to remain on the market to explicitly make sure Americans could afford that product. That drug is hydroxyprogesterone caproate, branded by K-V Pharmaceuticals as Makena, the first FDA-approved drug to prevent the risk of preterm birth in certain women. Will more such government interventions continue in support of drug affordability?

According to the Wall Street Journal Blog,“Typically, whenever a drug is approved, pharmacy compounding isn’t allowed and the FDA acts to remove any unapproved drugs that might on be the U.S. market.” However, the FDA is allowing the compound to remain solely because of the outrageous cost for the brand-name product; Makena is priced at $1,500 per dose! Before Makena was approved, the same drug without the K-V branding and FDA stamp of approval cost between $10 – 20 per dose.

To the best of our knowledge, the FDA’s role does not include controlling prices to help Americans have access to the medication they need. However, that is precisely what the FDA did in the case of Makena. In our opinion, that’s also what the FDA does by not enforcing certain personal drug importation laws that, if enforced, would prevent Americans from affording needed medication. Currently, under its personal drug importation policy, the FDA has stated it does not take enforcement action against individuals who import non-controlled medicines, which are generally (and ironically) viewed as not FDA-approved even if they’re the exact same drug sold here, often due to labelling or pill color and shape differences between otherwise identical products. (more…)

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