PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Are Drug Affordability Problems Greater In America Than Elsewhere?

The answer is yes. Out of eleven developed countries, America is #1 when it comes to high drug prices preventing people from taking needed medications, according to a new international survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and reported on in Health Affairs.  Twenty-one percent of American adults – over 50 million people – skipped medication due to cost, more than double the 9% who did so in Germany, the second highest rate. In the United Kingdom, only two percent of adults reported skipping medication due to drug costs.

The disturbing number of Americans forgoing prescriptions is not solely due to our large uninsured population. In fact, the Commonwealth Fund data shows that 15% of insured Americans skipped prescription medication due to costs, often because of high plan deductibles, co-payments, or co-insurance, supporting our recent analysis that those who will become insured under Obamacare may, too, find drug costs out of reach and seek affordable medication internationally. Hopefully, reforms under Obamacare, such as requiring plans to cover at least one drug in each “class” of drug and the eventual cap on out-of-pocket spending, will help Americans more easily afford their medication.

The data also shows the extent to which high drug prices affect patients with chronic conditions; skipping meds prescribed for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma, can lead to hospitalizations, emergency room visits, or even death.  Twenty-nine percent of Americans with chronic medical conditions skipped their meds due to costs, more than double the 14% of Australians, who had the second highest rate.  Only 1% of patients in the U.K. with chronic conditions skipped medication because of prices. Our conclusion? America can do better.

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Will Americans Need International Online Pharmacies Under Obamacare?

This past Monday, we reported that average savings from international online pharmacies are now 87% on popular brand name meds, up from 85% a year ago. As Americans gain access to health insurance through state exchanges under Obamacare, which kicked off yesterday, will there still be a need for the international online pharmacy option?


It may come as a surprise, but international online pharmacies benefit people with insurance, not just the uninsured. If a plan does not cover a drug, or has a high deductible or co-pay, ordering from abroad may help those on that particular plan. Fortunately, new health plans will help millions of Americans afford needed medication at neighborhood pharmacies, but some will continue to fall through the cracks.

Twenty-one percent of Americans with prescription benefits skipped filling a prescription in 2012 because of high prices, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Therefore, unless drug prices unexpectedly come down in America, we can predict that millions of Americans will still struggle with high drug prices in the U.S., and that many of them will seek relief from international online pharmacies.

There are other reasons that Americans can’t count on Obamacare to improve their access to affordable medication, especially in 2014. Due to a delay in implementing Obamacare’s spending cap of $6,350 a year, insurance plans that use more than one benefits administrator will not be subject to the cap next year. Instead, they will apply the cap to each benefit separately. Thus, Americans choosing an insurance plan that works with an independent pharmacy benefit manager may see one cap for doctor and hospital visits of $6,350 and another cap of $6,350 for medication! See our blog post “Obamacare Out-of-Pocket Cost Delays A Bad Prescription for Consumers” for more information on this topic.

Last but not least, the new plans may leave you with huge out-of-pocket drug costs if you take expensive medications.  A report in the New York Times shows that plans in some states will require patients to pay as much as 50% of a drug’s cost. Depending on the medication, 50% of a drug’s price can be prohibitive for many Americans. The Times article mentions the drug Tecfidera, which costs $4,000 a month; many Americans will struggle to make the initial payments of $2,000 or more before their out-of-pocket limit is reached.

We believe that over time Obamacare will succeed in helping millions of Americans afford medical care, including prescription medication. But the road ahead is a long one and we can’t let tens of millions continue to go without medication in the years to come. Fortunately, the lifeline of safe personal drug importation through verified international online pharmacies is available. If you choose to order from abroad, make sure you only order form a credentialed, verified pharmacy, such as those listed on

We will continue to monitor and report on how Obamacare affects drug prices and access by Americans to prescription medication.

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Average Online Pharmacy Savings of 87% to Help Americans Afford Medication Under Obamacare

Insured Americans, including those on Medicare, too often find that the brand name drugs they are prescribed are not covered by their plans. That population of underinsured Americans may increase under Obamacare. Fortunately, they will find that drug prices offered by international online pharmacies are often 87% lower than their local pharmacies. These prices seem too good to be true, so you might be asking how this is possible. It’s simple: governments in other countries negotiate with drug companies to keep drug prices affordable. Licensed pharmacies in those countries operate online and by mail-order to serve Americans seeking medications sold here at a much lower price.  Here are the savings on popular drugs:

Prices for a 3-month supply of top-selling brand name medications*

Drug Local Pharmacy Price International Online Pharmacy Price International Online Savings Annual Dollar Savings
Abilify 10 mg+ $2,582.97 $331.20 87.18% $9,007.08
Advair Diskus 250-50 mcg $1,061.97 $108.00 89.83% $3,815.88
Celebrex 200 mg $692.97 $104.00 84.99% $2,355.88
Crestor 20 mg+ $713.97 $74.00 89.64% $2,559.88
Cymbalta 60 mg+ $878.97 $90.00 89.76% $3,155.88
Diovan 160 mg+ $475.99 $62.10 86.95% $1,655.56
Januvia 100 mg+ $1,026.00 $131.40+ 87.19% $3,578.40
Namenda 10 mg++ $1,049.97 $210.60 79.94% $3,357.48
Nexium 40 mg+ $878.97 $67.50 92.32% $3,245.88
Spiriva Handihaler 18 mcg $1,115.97 $132.15 88.16% $3,935.28
Average $1,047.78 $131.10 87.60% $3,666.72

*Sources: Local pharmacy — Rite Aid in New York City; International online pharmacies – lowest prices found on from verified websites. +price calculated from 84 pills. ++price calculated from 100 pills.

Obamacare will help tens of millions of Americans afford prescriptions at the local pharmacy next year, and even more so into the future. However, with 21% of insured Americans going without medication due to high drug prices, we’re proud to offer useful information to help people afford the medication they are prescribed to stay healthy, get better, and live longer.

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