Shannon Crossbear, a baby-boomer and long time Hovland, MN resident, was facing an affordability crisis for a life saving prescription drug. Crossbear is covered under Medicare insurance and she opted for a supplementary pharmacy plan known as Medicare Part D. Part D premiums are generally more than $1,000 per year in the government/ private program.
Back to her affordability crisis. Crossbear normally purchased a three month supply of a prescription drug from a USA pharmacy. She went online and researched the cost of buying the identical drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. She posted her results on social media.
“Let me tell you the difference,” she wrote. “In the USA, one three month supply of medication, with insurance, the out of pocket copay is $790.” She went on to emphasize that she expected to pay $790 after her Part D plan paid its contracted share.
Pricing the exact same prescription at an online Canadian pharmacy she found her out of pocket and only cost is $166.45. Canadian pharmacies do not accept Medicare payments, so Crossbear saves more than $600 on each quarterly prescription fill. She’d save even more if she didn’t pay the Part D premiums.
“It now looks possible that my work hours do not have to match my age in order to live,” she wrote. “Game changer.”
When Crossbear expressed concerns over the costs of her prescription at the local clinic, she was referred to a USA online pharmacy started by a businessman named Mark Cuban called Cost Plus Drugs. Cuban’s company has very competitive pricing, but it does not yet offer some of the newer, more expensive pharmaceuticals, including the one Crossbear had been prescribed.
Crossbear did some research on other drugs and found seriously lower costs in Canada. One prescription inhaler she knew about that sells for $90 stateside listed for $12 in Canada.
“The fact that doctors do not share this information with patients, especially those on long term medication and/or fixed incomes, is of concern,” Crossbear said. “I wonder how many (people) are rationing or not taking life saving medicines because they simply don’t know.”
One reason physicians and clinics are not informing patients about Canadian pharmacies is because the act of buying drugs out of the country and importing them, even for personal use, is illegal. Although no one, to date, has been prosecuted for doing so, it would not be prudent for an American physician to promote illegal activity. The prohibition against importation has some limited exceptions, and Congress is considering legislation that would make importation for personal use legal.
Despite the legal issues, it has been estimated in a recent study at the University of Florida that more than two million Americans purchase prescription drugs from pharmacies in other countries, either online or in person.
In the meantime, American consumers of pharmaceuticals can research Cuban’s costplusdrugs.com to see if they might save money buying domestically.
Alternatively people can research costs and make purchases of up to a 90-day supply of most drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Like American mail order/online pharmacies, the Canadian pharmacy requires a prescription submitted by a US based medical doctor, which most physicians willingly do, when asked.
Crossbear contacted her Canadian pharmacy by telephone and was impressed with the helpful attitude and service provided.
Before jumping onto a website and ordering a prescription, seek out the Canadian International Pharmacy Association www.cipa.com. Formed in 2002, CIPA is a great source for information about safe, online pharmacies. You can also check www.pharmacychecker.com for additional information and reputable pharmacies. Both sites have extensive Q&A sections to help you navigate placing and receiving an order.