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Posted 9 months ago
Drug manufacturers set their own prices – and those prices can be high. If you have insurance, problem solved. But if you don’t, the inability to afford the prescriptions you need isn’t just an inconvenience – it could be life-threatening.
One thing that might help are generics, typically much cheaper. There are also programs designed to put free or low-cost prescription drugs in the hands of people who can’t afford them. If that’s you, check out sites like rxhope.com, needymeds.org, patientassistance.com, patientadvocate.org, and others to see if you qualify.
If you can’t use a generic, however, and make too much or are otherwise unqualified for assistance, there’s only one thing left to do: shop. And not just among stores – among countries.
As Dr. Cooperman said in the video, buying medications overseas or in Canada can mean healthy discounts. Two examples, supplied by PharmacyChecker.com:
So buying either of these medications could save more than $2,400 annually. And shipping and handling from international pharmacies doesn’t add much to the cost. On PharmacyChecker.com, the pharmacies listed charged from zero to about $11 per order.
Obviously, not all medications are as discounted as these two, but it’s easy to check prices. Grab a couple of your pill bottles, go online, and see what you find.
So they’re cheaper, but are they legal? Technically, no. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains: “In most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use.”
The FDA regulates prescription drugs sold in the U.S., but not those from other countries sold to U.S. consumers; that’s why it’s not legal. But while the FDA doesn’t officially condone overseas pharmaceuticals, they have a policy of not objecting to importing drugs in certain circumstances:
So if you don’t buy in bulk and don’t plan on selling what you buy to other people, there isn’t much of a risk that you’ll actually get in trouble for buying drugs overseas.
Video reporter Stacy Johnson went back and forth via email with the FDA regarding the legality of importing prescription drugs for personal use. Here’s a cut-and-paste from one of his emails…
Here’s the verbatim response from the FDA…
Does that give you the go-ahead? You be the judge.
3. Quality Concerns
It’s important to thoroughly research the online pharmacy you plan to purchase from. According to the World Health Organization, “in over 50 percent of cases, medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been found to be counterfeit.” However, a footnote to that statement acknowledges, “some Internet pharmacies are legal operations established to offer clients convenience and savings” that “sell only on the basis of a prescription.”
The key is to use pharmacies that are legitimate, but international, rather than the fly-by-night kind that floods your inbox with spam. How can you be sure you’re buying medicine from a legit pharmacy? Check for these:
4. Potential risks
Getting a counterfeit drug could be dangerous to your health. These drugs are either made from inactive ingredients and will do nothing for you, are expired and not as effective as they should be, or made from harmful ingredients that could cause serious injury or even death.
For example, the FDA reported a group of people thought they were purchasing Ambien, Xanax, Lexapro, or Ativan over the Internet. Instead, they got a potent anti-psychotic drug. Those who took the drug ended up needing emergency treatment for symptoms like muscle spasms and trouble breathing.
In another FDA case, some U.S.-based medical offices purchased counterfeit Altuzan,a cancer drug not approved by the FDA. In some cases, the injectable medication had no active ingredient and cancer patients were not getting the treatment they needed.
In 2007, The New York Times reported on another counterfeit drug issue. Over several years, companies were adding diethylene glycol, the main ingredient in some antifreeze, into cough syrup, fever medications, and some injectable drugs. Researchers said thousands of deaths could have occurred due to the counterfeit medications.
The bottom line
Buying prescriptions from an overseas pharmacy can save you a ton of money, but done carelessly could be risky. Cut down on the risk by starting with well-known, U.S.-based sites that screen and approve international pharmacies. And avoid any pharmacy doing suspicious things such as not disclosing contact information or supplying drugs without prescriptions.
The prescription for safe savings is common sense.