OK to Buy Prescription Drugs Online? Outside US?

chisueNovember 29, 2011

I'm disgusted with the retail cost of three prescriptions my DH and I have as 'maintenance' drugs.

Is it legal to buy them online or from another country? Safe?

One of these is my Advair, which is currently $2736/year retail. Oh, but I can have a Part D Medicare insurance policy for $410/yr.; then my Advair will be *only* $878/yr. (There is no generic and there is no alternative.)

DH's two meds retail for a total of $6564/yr. He can pay $456/yr. for a Part D premium and be able to pay *only* $2856/yr. for them. (He has tried other similar drugs with poor results.)

I find all three online at much lower costs, mostly from Canadian suppliers.

We are required to buy the Part D insurance, but if I can save by buying the drugs online, we'll jusst 'eat' those premiums.

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I know people who go to Mexico to buy theirs and they are very cheap. But how do they sell them for so little money, where do they get them?? I had a Pakistani doctor and she said "don't buy from my country, you will get rice filled capsules.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 10:06AM
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chisue-I'm in healthcare and I would not advise anyone to get their meds from another country. What if the Advair inhaler is filled with just buffer-no active med? What then? You're out the money & you've put your health at risk. Let's take a look at the breakdown for your Advair on a Med D policy:

Retail cost for Adviar $2736 yr = $228 month
Med D copay (before donut hole) = 25%
$228 x 25% = $57 month--not bad for a med that costs 4 times that much.

Med D premiums start at $29.95 for basic coverage (no generic drug coverage during donut hole--and with $4 generics available, that's not such a big deal anymore), so $29.95 x 12 months = $359.40 year in premiums

The donut hole shrunk this year too. Now instead of paying 100% for your meds during the donut hole, your copay only goes up to 50% from the 25% you were previously paying.

Bottom line here is that prior to Medicare D being signed into law, there was ZERO drug coverage for seniors unless you were on medicaid. Take the savings being offered & be glad to have it. I am hearing of these new employer prescription drug coverage plans lately with a $3,000-$5,000 deductible before the insuror will even pay anything. They must be pretty cheap for the employers, because they are catching on like wildfire. Count yourself as lucky. Those maintenance medications you & your husband are taking are likely as necessary as shelter & food--(I know mine are). Would you rather do without?

Now if you are in a position where you are truly having difficulty paying for your medications, you can go down to the Social Security Office and ask for an LIS or Extra Help With Prescription Medication program application. This additional help offers a tiered benefit based on your income and helps pay for your monthly Medicare Premium, your deductible, it eliminates the donut hole and reduces the amount of copay you are required to pay at the pharmacy to a maximum of 15% and a minimum of $2.60 depending on the medication & what tier you qualify for.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 11:04PM
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mydreamhome -- I am not griping that Part D exists. I am griping that we are footing the bill that enables insurance and pharmacutical companies to buy the US Congress. No other first world country has such expensive prescription medications. Only we and NZ permit advertising for prescription meds. (And I'd always thought so well of NZ! LOL)

We can afford to pay these bills...for now.

The "50% of (inflated) retail copay" while in the donut hole is in effect for 2011.

Our prescription meds are more expensive to us on the Part D plans with cheaper premiums. The costs I cite are the *best deals* for us on Part D's.

Adding up costs for Part B, a Medigap supplement, Part D and our 'discounted' prescription costs, the total is greater than what I budget for food.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 1:08PM
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May I point out that that we are not "...footing the bill that enables insurance & pharmaceutical companies to buy the US Congress." In fact, it is due largely in part to the government-forced low reimbursement in other countries that have socialized medicine that jack the costs up so much here in the US. With the government forced low reimbursement in socialized medicine, there is no way a pharma company could stay in the black with just the products they currently make. Don't forget that there needs to be money available for research & development of new drugs. Look at the antibiotics market--it's a good example of just this thing. Why do you think there are next to no new antibiotics coming out? The pharma company won't be able to recoup their money due to low reimbursement in socialized medicine and in the US, forced use of generic antibiotics. Don't forget that the bacteria are becoming immune to the antibiotics we currently have available. Heaven help us when they don't work at all anymore because no one has another antibiotic in their pipeline--we will end up with a worldwide plague & nothing to fight it with.

With all that being said, I have never liked the way Med D was put together--and trust me on this one, the pharma companies did not put it together--the greedy insurance companies & the US Government did it. I will never forget when our current US president was running for office, he ran a commercial on TV of an excerpt from a town hall meeting where he stated something along the lines of the pharmaceutical companies made it so seniors could not use pharma company discount cards to help with their medication copays--total lie. That is a government regulation--anyone who receives any part of their medication cost funded from the government (i.e. medicare, medicaid, VA benefits at an off base pharmacy, etc) are not eligible to use pharma discount cards, because the US government has decided you are getting enough help with paying for your meds from them.

IMO, Med D should have no monthly premium unless you want a more than basic plan and it should cover a flat percentage of drug costs all year long--drug costs that are negotiated by the government like they do for Federal employees and Dept. of Defense and not a cost negotiated by each insurance company plan (like we have now). I also think there should be no set formulary--you should be able to access any medication you & your doctor think is best for you. I do think that a small monthly premium for medical care (i.e. Medicare B) is fair considering what they cover. A MediGap plan is purely voluntary and something each individual has to decide if the cost justifies the benefit provided--similar to buying any other optional insurance plan.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 3:15PM
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My husband has been buying several prescriptions from a Canadian pharmacy for years with no ill effects or problems. One prescription is usually shipped from Germany where it is manufactured. That one needs to be picked up and signed for at the post office.

He has purchased inhalers, allergy medicines, and Lipitor this way. Again, no problems. There are probably a few "bad" online Canadian pharmacies so be careful, but he uses Northwest Pharmacy (I think) with no issues. We have no prescription coverage so must do this to save money. I trust Canadian pharmacies, but I would be leery of those third world country type places.

At one point a friend that visits Mexico frequently purchased his allergy medicine for us. Again, no problems.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 5:16PM
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My Ophthalmologist recommends buying Eye Drops in Canada. He said he buys all of his meds there and recommends his patients do the same. Exact meds, they are sent from the US to Canada and sold much cheaper.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 10:21AM
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DH gets a couple of very expensive drugs from an online Canadian pharmacy. He's been getting them for years and the cost is sometimes less than his co-pay. The reason he gets them, even tho' it might cost us a bit more than his co-pay, is that it keeps him out of the donut hole where he would have to pay full exhorbitant price for some of his cheaper meds. I spend about 6 hours every year figuring out where to buy which drug ($10 for 3 months for some at Target, full price for a couple at Costco - and neither of these places are given the Part D insurance info so it doesn't count against the donut hole) and two from Canada. It's absolutely nuts.

mydreamhome - do you have a cite for your claims above? The pharmaceuticals are making huge profits. They spend more for advertising than research and development. Yes, they (along with many other industries) have bought Congress to bend to their will to insure even more profit.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 8:55PM
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My husband bought Vl@gra (gasp) from a pharmacy in India. He needed a real prescription. When the pills came, it took a long time. Delayed in transit for US Customs, then finally arrived. They didn't work. Don't do it. A waste of money. My sister the pharmacist did not recommend it.I should have listened.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 9:12AM
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dockside-Do a google search of any of the claims & you should get a plethora of information. The anitbiotic information alone has been analyzed on several different television specials on the Discovery Health channel, The Learning Channel, NBC, ABC, & CBS not to mention on radio talk shows including NPR. At one time, the Pharmaceutical companies were spending a boatload in advertising--not so true anymore. There are still plenty of commercials on TV for different medications, but not like we used to see even 3-5 years ago. As medications have gone off patent to generic & the products in the companies' pipelines don't make it to/through FDA approval, they have had to cut way back in all areas including advertising, & they have had massive layoffs in all divinsions of the companies. Pfizer, Astra-Zaneca, Glaxo, Eli Lilly & Novartis aren't the powerhouses they used to be & it shows...Wall Street even knows it--have you seen their share prices? The LIS or extra help program information for seniors is available on the Medicare & Social Security websites.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 8:15PM
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It was the pharmaceutical industry that pushed and lobbied for the Part D drug law. The insurance companies had a big hand in the health care reform act. A lot of representatives in Congress left right after the Part D law was passed, to work for pharma lobbyists. Bill Tauzin, received 10 times his Congressional salary when he went to work for a big pharma lobbying firm and he was instrumental in getting the law passed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Big pharma helped write the Part D law

    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 4:39PM
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If the drug companies didn't make money on their operation in Canada ... they wouldn't set up shop here: simple as that.

They're just making way too much on their U.S. operations.

They, and the insurance companies, plus a great many other enterprises dominated by a few suppliers, have very effective lobbying operations in Washington.

Have you noticed, now in January, the political operation moving into full swing, looking toward November?

Have you given any thought to how much it costs to campaign ... for the nomination, let alone when the actual running for election begins? Who do you think pays for all of that - it isn't John/Jane Q. Citizen ...

... well - not directly.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 1:42PM
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I actually knew someone who overdosed and died from buying meds online from overseas. The dosage was wrong. He's gone. Nope, no way would I ever.

Not only that, but there is a shortage of injectable methotrexate (I use pills, but may possibly inject in the future, but children with leukemia...it cures like 95% of them). I don't believe that the ONLY reason the shortage is happening is because of impurities from drugs from overseas, but that's part of it. Google it if you're interested.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:15PM
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Please do not buy drugs online. It's not safe and it's illegal.

Online "Canadian" pharmacies are often not even located in Canada. The websites are an outright lie. And "pharmacies" located in Canada are not regulated like real pharmacies unless they actually do business in
Canada with Canadian patients.

If you want medications from Canada, go to a real physical pharmacy that dispenses to Canadian patients. And since drug names are different in different countries, make absolutely sure both the brand and generic name of the medication is written on the prescription as well as what it is for. That way if there are any questions, that information can be important for the pharmacist to determine if clarification is needed. For example, when Bextra was available in the US, it was a brand name anti-inflammatory medicine. In at least one European country that brand name was for blood pressure medicine, a completely different drug. Brand names are made up for recognition and marketing, while generic names are the chemical name for the medicine molecule, which can vary slightly from region to region but are pretty consistent.

In addition, if he US regulations on importation and manufacturing keep our drug supply reasonably safe. We have, at least as of a few years ago, about a 2-3% counterfeit rate. Many other countries buy on the world market which has about 8-10% , or higher in some regions, rate. Drugs purchased online are even worse, as they are often completely outside the medical system of any country and completely unregulated.

There was a great article in I think Health magazine if I remember correctly back about 6 or so years ago that followed an investigation of medicines purchased online. It was astounding how bad things were. And some of the "manufacturing" facilities they had pictures of I wouldn't step inside even with a whole truckload of bleach and sanitizer at my side!

At the very least, any physical or online pharmacy that does not require an exam by a healthcare provider and an actual prescription should be avoided like the plague.

Any online pharmacy that is not VIPPS registered should also be avoided. Please remember criminals lie, so any site claiming to be VIPPS registered should then be verified by searching the registry, not by linking through that website to verify!

Working with your doctor or pharmacist for suggestions is helpful. If you use multiple pharmacies, PLEASE keep a list of ALL your medications and ask each pharmacy to enter them on your profile for screening. Paying out of pocket takes away the only screening tool the pharmacy has for seeing major interactions with meds from other places, IF your insurance company provides those alerts to them. Pharmacy shopping and paying cash puts a lot of responsibility on YOU to make sure your medications are safe, so do your best to keep everyone involved well informed. It's in your best interest.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 12:40PM
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In my Twitter feed today, just one example.

Here is a link that might be useful: BBC health article

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:51PM
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It pays to re-visit medication issues from time to time.
New Beau and I just checked around: his doctor said it was okay to go back to an older version of his drug, now available from the warehouse club pharmacy at a fraction of the cost of the new one. He needs to take it three times a day instead of three extended release tabs at bedtime...but it's the difference between over $300 a month and $39.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 9:33PM
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