High drug prices in the USA and buying from Canadian pharmacies


prescription drugs healthcare

Photo Credit: JJAVA

According to the results of the research conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation, 80% of Americans are worried about their drug expenses.

What is the problem with the medication prices in the USA?

In comparison with other countries, medicine prices in the US are significantly higher. The difference may reach several thousand dollars. Some may reply that Americans do not pay the full price for their prescription drugs since they use the services of insurance companies. However, situations differ.

Patients may have problems with paying for their medications in the following cases:

  • they have no insurance at all;
  • they are on high deductible plans;
  • their insurance companies cover generics or cheaper and older alternatives only;
  • the insurance plan does not cover the drug they need.

As you can see, the problem is pressing enough. So, it is no wonder that a lot of Americans (according to some data, their number reaches 20 million!), who can’t afford to purchase drugs in the USA, prefer buying them abroad. The optimal location for that is Canada where prices are significantly lower. Canadian Legacy Pharmacy has long ago become synonymous with affordable healthcare; it is a service that does not only help you fill prescription inexpensively, but keeps you informed and updated about the multiple options for saving and getting newly developed drugs and therapies.

Why are medicines cheaper in Canada?

Like the USA, Canada is the developed country with high living standards. But medications are much more affordable there. The reason for such a situation is the governmental regulation of prices. In Canada pharmaceutical companies cannot set prices themselves, they should get the approval of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. Its members compare the offer with prices in the specified countries with the similar economy. In case the proposed price is too high they turn to the Federal Court for a ruling. As for the USA, here manufacturers may make prices as high as customers can afford. As a result, Americans have to overpay.

Is it legal to buy medicines in Canada?

Sure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not encourage such shopping. In fact, it is illegal. But, due to the “non-enforcement” policy of the government, it is not punishable by law. The FDA is focused on those who buy medicines abroad for commercial purposes. If one purchases non-controlled medications for personal use only, he is unlikely to be prosecuted. The corresponding document was published in 1998. It has been being followed since that time.

However, the legality of such purchases is still an open question and numerous politicians enter into this discussion again and again. In most cases the issue is addressed during election campaigns. For example, in 2000 President Bill Clinton signed the act allowing to import prescription drugs from developed countries. But the document required the approval of the secretary of health and human services. Clinton didn’t manage to receive it.

As for recent years, in 2017 Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) made a decision to resume the discussion about the problem of the high prices of drugs and the suitable solutions. They wrote a letter to Scott Gottlieb, the FDA Commissioner, to find out whether the non-enforcement policy was still in effect and to ask him to support the bill allowing people to purchase drugs from approved Canadian pharmacies for personal use providing that there was a valid prescription.

What was the reason for such a step? That year the FDA inspected 9 stores that helped old people buy medicines in Canadian online pharmacies. One of the owners later told journalists that he just helped his clients to find trustworthy companies and wasn’t involved in reselling drugs. He also claimed that he checked the patients’ prescriptions. In fact, he didn’t even receive the medicines for them. Still, the authorities suppressed his financial documents and the information about his clients and made him sign the document acknowledging that reselling drugs was illegal. So, Klobuchar and Grassley decided to clarify the situation.

What is the problem with buying medicines from Canadian pharmacies?

In Canada one can buy the same medicine produced by the same company at a price that is much more affordable than in the USA, why should Americans miss such an advantageous opportunity? The official reason is that US authorities can’t guarantee that it is safe enough. That’s quite a disputable statement, isn’t it? Sure, there are some risks associated with counterfeit products or fraud. But it seems that the biggest problems are related to the peculiarities of the pharmaceutical business.

Developing new medicines requires significant investments. Manufacturers need money for researching, testing, patenting, advertising and other associated expenses. In the countries with the governmental regulation of prices pharmaceutical companies cannot gain enough money to cover the expenses mentioned. And the American market is perfect for making the maximum profit. There are a lot of elderly people and those, who suffer from chronic diseases. Besides, a lot of Americans are interested in the latest versions of drugs and can afford buying them. In addition, in America companies are allowed to apply direct-to-consumer advertising. In fact, Americans have to overpay for medicines in order to let patients from other countries pay less.

In case American authorities allow citizens to buy medicines abroad for personal use and for reselling (so-called parallel trading), manufacturers will be forced to lower prices for the USA and to raise prices for other markets. And the last mentioned point is not an easy task to do. In fact, for pharmaceutical companies it is easier to convince US authorities to leave the situation unchanged. However, as of now the non-enforcement policy is still in effect, and Americans have the opportunity to save on prescription medicines by buying them in Canada.



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