Curious about globalization and international online pharmacies? Here's the scoop.
We have all heard the word globalization. It can be described as technological processes that create more cross-border interdependence – economic, social, political, and cultural – among countries. I’m not only the president and co-founder of PharmacyChecker, but I happen to have a master’s degree in international relations as well, so this interests me. And if you’re interested in lower drug prices and how to benefit from them using an online pharmacy, it may interest you as well.
To some folks, the word “globalization” has a negative ring to it: the idea that America should focus on its own people and not the rest of the world; lost factory jobs; United Nations bureaucrats; and international elites. To others, globalization is seen as the world coming together: economic interdependence; less international conflict; and, broadly, international cooperation for the common good. What all observers would agree on is that globalization means freer international trade. And on that last note, whichever side of this political and social equation you’re on, globalization can help you afford your medication!
Almost all the prescription drugs at your local pharmacies, whether located in Miami, FL or Seattle, WA, and everywhere in between, are products of globalization. The active ingredients could be made in one country or in several countries, while other ingredients are made elsewhere. They are manufactured in 150 countries, most prevalently in China, India, Mexico and the European Union. Drug companies do whatever they can, sometimes illegally or unethically, to maximize profits. The kicker here is that those drugs are sold for much less to patients in all of these other countries. Here in the United States, the prices for the same drugs sold elsewhere are astronomically higher – by almost 400% for the top 60 brand drugs.
U.S. vs. International Pharmacy Drug Prices
|Brand Name Drug (Quantity, Strength)||Discounted U.S. Retail Price||Lowest International Pharmacy Price||American Consumer Savings|
|Januvia (84 tablets, 100 mg)||$1,359.59||$68.95||94%|
|Flovent HFA (1 inhaler, 110 mcg)||$524.31||$27.90||94%|
|Premarin (84 tablets, 0.625 mg)||$513.65||$31.99||93%|
|Vesicare (90 tablets, 10 mg)||$1,131.65||$100.00||91%|
|Viagra (84 tablets, 100 mg)||$6,361.17||$552.99||91%|
Prices current as of April 2021. The Discounted U.S. Retail Price is the price found at pharmacies in White Plains, NY when using a prescription discount card; The Lowest International Pharmacy Prices is the lowest price listed on PharmacyChecker.com from licensed pharmacies that sell to Americans and meet the qualifications of the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.
Before the Internet’s rise, Americans were travelling to Canada and Mexico to buy much less expensive medication. Not surprisingly, over 20 years ago, some pharmacies in Canada launched websites to reach more Americans fed up with their pharmacy bills. Over time, those online pharmacies began working with pharmacies outside of Canada, ones that offer even lower prices. This evolution (revolution?) of what I call international online pharmacies is a perfect example of the economics of globalization.
The CEO and lead founder of PharmacyChecker, Tod Cooperman, MD, may not have been thinking about the word “globalization” almost 20 years ago, but he was thinking about how to provide information for consumers to safely buy less expensive prescription drugs on the Internet, including from Canada. His jam is finding information gaps that need to be filled to empower consumers to protect their health. Dr. Cooperman brought me on in 2002 to start researching and developing a company to do this. I realized this was globalization at work to empower consumers!
Safe international online pharmacies
Now, let’s get right down to it. Big Pharma, takes advantage of globalization to produce drugs at the lowest cost and charge the highest prices in America: why shouldn’t Americans benefit from globalization as well by purchasing from international online pharmacies with much lower prices in Canada and other countries?
Is it safe?
If it’s not safe to buy medication online from other countries, then people should not do it. Let’s explore.
Safe international online pharmacies are websites that process prescription drug orders for customers with valid prescriptions from their healthcare providers that are filled internationally by licensed pharmacies and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. They sell high-quality prescription drugs produced under Good Manufacturing Practices. That explains why the best international online pharmacies are just as safe as domestic ones – but a lot cheaper. In many cases, the exact same medicine sold here, such as those you may find at a local Walgreens or CVS, costs 90% less from an international online pharmacy.
Rogue online pharmacies
You’ll notice in the first sentence above that I added the word “safe” to qualify the term “international online pharmacy.” That’s because there are many dangerous, scam websites that sell drugs, whether domestically or internationally, that should not be considered as real pharmacies. They are often referred to as rogue online pharmacies. As PharmacyChecker sees it, rogue online pharmacies range from criminal enterprises — selling counterfeit drugs and/or addictive prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, stealing financial information and identities, and flouting all rules of safe pharmacy practice — to those sites that sell real medication, even of high quality from a licensed pharmacy, but do not require a valid prescription.
How do you find a safe “international” online pharmacy?
Before diving into why PharmacyChecker is so great, let’s look at a real-world situation. Let’s say that you have asthma and have taken Flovent, a corticosteroid inhaler, for years. It works. You don’t have health insurance, or you do have it but the costs for Flovent are too high. You should not stop taking it, but what do you do about the price. Discount cards and coupons and patient assistance programs will not cut it.
You may think some quick internet research should do the trick. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case: the pharmaceutical industry has spent money investing in companies, organizations, and lobbying that may prevent you from finding a safe international online pharmacy. Searching for online pharmacies will now mostly lead to only those results that industry would like you to see, and that does not include safe international online pharmacies that sell to patients in the United States.
PharmacyChecker.com provides the solution to this information gap. Since 2002, our company has been researching, evaluating, verifying, and monitoring online pharmacies, with a focus on international online pharmacies. We have developed a robust set of online pharmacy standards and auditing procedures in our online pharmacy verification program. The program is directed by an American licensed pharmacist. Online pharmacies verified as meeting these standards of practice are accredited in our program. They are routinely monitored for continued compliance with the rules.
Here is a list of PharmacyChecker-accredited online pharmacies. If you have found an online pharmacy independently and it’s not on that list, then you can check our online pharmacy search portal. Most PharmacyChecker-accredited online pharmacies publish an authorized PharmacyChecker seal of approval.
PharmacyChecker has been recommended by the editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News and author of Americans Sickness, Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD; Roger Bate, PhD, an economist with expertise in prescription drug safety and quality, formerly with the American Enterprise Institute; the People’s Pharmacy, run by pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical anthropologist Terry Graedon, PhD; Diane Archer, JD, founder of Just Care USA and former board chair of Consumer Reports; and Stephen Barrett, M.D., retired psychiatrist and member of the American Council on Science and Health Board of Scientific Advisors.
As documented in peer-reviewed literature and demonstrated through ten years of periodically testing prescription drugs ordered from PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacies, it’s abundantly clear that properly credentialed international online pharmacies sell good quality prescription drugs at much lower prices.
PharmacyChecker’s research and advocacy are well documented in the public record. For more on that, see PharmacyChecker in the news.
Shades of gray and the FDA
It is technically prohibited under federal law, at least under most circumstances, to import a prescription drug for personal use. I write “technically” because the FDA does not prosecute individuals for buying meds from other countries – as long as they don’t resell them. In the 19 years I’ve worked in this area, I do not know of a single instance of a person facing charges of any kind for “personal” drug importation.
The FDA warns that you should not buy prescription drugs online from other countries. I believe that the agency’s warnings are successful at scaring people away from medications they can afford and healthcare professionals and organizations from recommending doing so. In some cases, the FDA will refuse to allow a personal drug import and destroy it.
The FDA may be wrong about personal importation, but it is right about using caution when buying prescription drugs online. There are lots of rogue pharmacy websites and the agency’s warnings on that front are worthwhile and necessary. We do the same thing.
Is PharmacyChecker the only verifier of online pharmacies?
No, but I believe PharmacyChecker is the most helpful and independent verifier of online pharmacies.
Online pharmacies that are not accredited by PharmacyChecker are not necessarily rogue online pharmacies or otherwise dangerous. Our Verification Program is voluntary and not associated with or mandated by any governmental body. There are other trusted online pharmacy certifying programs, including the Digital Pharmacy program (fka VIPPS) of the National Association of Board of Pharmacy (NABP), LegitScript, Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA), or the European Union’s online pharmacy logo program. In the case of the NABP and LegitScript, all online pharmacies that process orders filled by pharmacies outside the U.S. to patients in the U.S., including licensed pharmacies in Canada, are not recommended or approved because of the technical prohibition in the U.S. on buying medicines from other countries through mail-order. CIPA's online pharmacy standards are similar to PharmacyChecker.com's, and some but not all of its members are PharmacyChecker-accredited. Pharmacies with a valid EU online pharmacy logo must be based and licensed within the EU.
I happen to believe in and advocate through an organization called Prescription Justice changing the laws and regulations here in America to lower drug prices for a long-term solution. The pharmaceutical marketplace in the U.S. is broken when it comes to drug prices. New regulations are needed to fix it. That includes allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and reforming drug importation regulations to create price competition. We also need new laws that end “patent games” that drug companies play to keep lower-cost generics off the market.
And, hell yeah, I also believe that people who are slipping through the cracks of our broken healthcare system should be allowed to buy less expensive medications globally. To that end, international online pharmacies are part of the solution and the one available right now.