Verification of Nearly 100 Online Pharmacies Abroad Already Completed; Senate Urged to Push Key Provisions
White Plains, New York – November 2nd, 2009 – PharmacyChecker.com, the leading online pharmacy verification company and authority on international pharmacies, expressed support today for concepts within the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act of 2009 (S. 1232), introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and co-sponsored by 31 senators*, which would legalize personal drug importation by Americans and require verification of foreign pharmacies. Millions of Americans have been safely purchasing medication from abroad for several years and have visited PharmacyChecker.com to compare prescription drug prices among verified international and U.S. online pharmacies.
“The ability to get medicine at much lower prices from other countries is a lifeline for many Americans, particularly in today’s economy,” said Tod Cooperman, M.D., PharmacyChecker.com’s president. “Given adequate information, consumers already have no problem finding high-quality affordable drugs and they should not have to fear the law to get them. Our legislators should advance this bill so that its key provisions become law as soon as possible.”
Lower Prices Abroad
Prices on brand name drugs in the U.S. are generally double or even several times the price of the same drugs in other countries which negotiate or limit drug prices. A survey of recent prices across popular brand name medications shows an average savings of 72% using foreign pharmacies (see table). For example, Americans can save 72% on brand name Lipitor that is dispensed from a licensed pharmacy in New Zealand by purchasing a three-month supply for $112, instead of $403 from a typical U.S. pharmacy. On an annualized basis that’s a savings of $1,164 for a single drug.
Personal Drug Importation: The Current Situation
Personal drug importation is technically illegal. In practice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not prosecute individuals who buy non-controlled medicines from Canada and elsewhere, but it occasionally seizes prescription orders en route to the patient.
The U.S. drug industry and pharmacy associations have successfully lobbied the government to keep personal drug importation illegal. These groups have also launched public information campaigns and other efforts which appear aimed at scaring consumers from seeking medication dispensed from pharmacies in other countries. Underpinning such campaigns is the current illegality of personal drug importation. Consequently, these scare campaigns often characterize licensed pharmacies dispensing from other countries as “rogue,” "illegitimate,” or “not approved” simply because they sell to Americans.
However, millions of Americans have purchased drugs from legitimate pharmacies in Canada and many other countries without reports of dangerous results. “Pharmacies in many other countries are just as safe as those in the United States,” noted Ram Kamath, Pharm.D, who developed the I-SaveRx personal drug importation program adopted by the states of Missouri, Kansas, Vermont and Wisconsin. Mr. Kamath has inspected many pharmacies outside the U.S. and is an advisor to PharmacyChecker.com. Dr. Kamath added, “Moreover, the drugs in many countries are just as safe as in the U.S. because other countries also have excellent pharmaceutical regulations. In fact, pharmaceutical companies themselves have chosen to produce many of their drugs abroad in order to save money, although they sell those drugs at much higher prices in the U.S. than elsewhere.”
The Senate Proposal and PharmacyChecker.com’s Program:
Senate bill S.1232 calls for legalizing personal importation of drugs from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and, potentially, other countries. Since 2003, PharmacyChecker.com has evaluated and verified pharmacies in most of these countries. Two hundred two online pharmacies are currently members of the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program, of which almost half are Canadian and other foreign pharmacies. The Senate bill would charge pharmacies fees for registering, similar to how the PharmacyChecker.com program is funded.
The Senate bill requires that foreign pharmacies wishing to export to Americans be licensed in their countries. This is the key criteria used in the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program, which also re-confirms pharmacy licenses on a quarterly basis. Like the Senate bill, PharmacyChecker.com’s program excludes the importation of controlled substances and requires the consumer to have a valid prescription. Both programs suspend or terminate pharmacies for violations. The Senate bill indicates that exporting pharmacies are subject to inspection. PharmacyChecker.com already conducts rigorous onsite inspections of pharmacies in certain countries to ensure that they adhere to high standards of pharmacy practice.
Although not covered in the Senate bill, PharmacyChecker.com also verifies the relationship between online pharmacy websites and bricks and mortar pharmacies and annually mystery shops each online pharmacy for compliance with its requirements. Other key checks in the PharmacyChecker.com program are the verification of contact information, online privacy, and online security. Examples of PharmacyChecker.com approved pharmacy websites can be found at www.pharmacychecker.com/onlinepharmacyratings/.
The Senate bill, unlike PharmacyChecker.com, would also establish registered importers within the United States that could re-sell imported medicines. Although this would reduce the need for consumers to purchase from abroad, it would introduce imported drugs into the domestic U.S. drug supply – something that personal drug importation does not do. Consequently, the bill calls for the development of a complex drug qualification and labeling program to identify differences between imported drugs and U.S. counterpart products. That program would result in labeling giving “prominent notice” to product differences such as different inactive ingredients. While this would be useful to consumers, these label requirements exceed those currently required even of generic drugs sold in the U.S.
“Personal drug importation should never have been illegal. Decriminalizing it will remove a stigma and help more Americans access medication at an affordable price,” said Gabriel Levitt, Vice President of PharmacyChecker.com. He added, “We hope legislators also recognize that PharmacyChecker.com has been effectively verifying qualifications of foreign pharmacies for many years at no cost to the government or consumers. Our requirements are similar to those in the Senate bill and we are willing to work with the government to keep our standards aligned with those in the new law. Recognition of PharmacyChecker.com’s third-party verifications would accelerate achievement of the bill’s goals, help enforce high standards among exporting pharmacies, and eliminate the need to create a redundant function within the government. Registration of importers within the U.S. and the development of an imported drug database also merit consideration but are not needed to immediately move ahead with legalization of personal drug importation.”
PharmacyChecker.com operates the largest independent verification service of U.S. and foreign online pharmacies. Its verifications are used by consumers and also assist search engines in qualifying online pharmacy advertisers. It provides one of the largest drug price comparison tools free to consumers. PharmacyChecker.com is a privately held company based in New York. It has no ownership in or from companies that sell or distribute pharmacy products.
For additional information, see PharmacyChecker.com’s discussion About Online Pharmacies, which includes descriptions of pharmacy practices in various countries, and Safe Strategies for Drug Savings, for consumers. Both reports are available for free online.
*Co-sponsors: Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Senator Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Herb Kohl (D-MN), Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Senator Jim Webb (D-VA).
|Savings on Drugs Using Licensed, Non-U.S. Online Pharmacies|
|Brand Name Drug (U.S. Name Shown)||Treatment for||Typical U.S. Price on PharmacyChecker.com||Lowest Price on PharmacyChecker.com||Savings|
|Lipitor (20mg) – 90 pills||High cholesterol||$402.99||$112.00||72%|
|Nexium (40mg) – 90 pills||GERD||$556.99||$73.80||87%|
|Plavix (75mg) – 90 pills||Heart attack & stroke prevention||$456.99||$202.50||56%|
|Advair Diskus (250-50mcg) – 60 doses||Asthma||$243.99||$54.90||77%|
|Seroquel (100mg) – 60 pills||Schizophrenia/ bi-polar disorder||$320.99||$99.00||69%|
|Singulair (10mg) – 90 pills||Asthma||$415.99||$144.90||65%|
|Actos (30mg) – 90 pills||Type 2 diabetes||$726.99||$187.00||74%|
|Prevacid (30mg) – 90 pills||GERD||$406.99||$100.80||75%|
|Abilify (15mg) – 90 pills||Schizophrenia/ bi-polar disorder||$1,515.99||$356.40||76%|
|Effexor XR (75mg) – 90 pills||Depression/ Anxiety disorder||$472.99||$132.30||72%|
|*From Canadian or other international pharmacies
Source: Prices on PharmacyChecker.com on 7/30/09. https://www.pharmacychecker.com/listingalpha/
Contact: Gabriel Levitt, PharmacyChecker.com at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-387-4526.