Statin Answers

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Getting statins from foreign pharmacies

Get your Lipitor from Canada on the cheap?

Many Americans (residents of the United States) import prescription drugs from other countries to save money. The wacky pricing system (multi-channel prices, price discrimination) that pharmaceutical companies employ means medicines are often cheaper abroad. U.S. residents have even teamed up to form buying clubs. Americans make trips to Mexico where physicians' prescriptions are not necessary (the pharmacist is empowered to write the prescription on the spot. Canadian pharmacies will fill prescriptions by U.S doctors, often at a lower price that U.S. pharmacies will.

Mail order and Internet pharmacies are also used. Be careful, though. Despite interest by some legislators, it is still illegal for individuals to import drugs, even for their own use. There is no “personal exemption”. Although the pharmaceutical companies have an interest in promoting these restriction laws, it is overly paranoid to claim that they are the only reason these laws exist. Safety is also a concern. Are the bureaucrats overly cautious? The FDA has been criticized as such for years. But the fact remains that inspections of mailed packages from foreign suppliers have turned up counterfeit drugs, giving credence to the argument that we need these laws.

Governments of other countries have not presented or guaranteed drugs mailed from their countries as safe. The World Health Organization says websites that conceal their physical adress are most often counterfeit.

Possible problems

An FDA report said “any potential cost benefits associated with imported prescription drugs are outweighed by the safety risks effecting the U.S. drug supply and the individual consumer safety." Now maybe the writers of that report were influencted by their view from the inside, the BigPharma establishment, and promises of jobs and perks. It cannot be said for sure.

However, the report further allows that “many consumers are not aware of the safety risks or illegalities” of drugs, even those bought for personal use. The report encouraged strict enforcement of the laws and said the FDA should “revisit” its policy on enforcement protection because the policy was often misinterpreted as allowing overseas buying for individuals. They also wanted the government (postal service, Deptartment of Homeland Security) to intercept packages from overseas pharmacies and return them through normal mail return channels. The report recommended an expanded public relations campaign to remind citizens of the illegality of importing and that FDA predictions do not extend to these drugs.

Foreign Policy magazine published an artilcle on their website in Aug 2009 explaining a test they did with importing drugs from internet pharmacies. Although their sample size was small, they found good quality in the drugs they bought, with the exception of Viagra. The contents of the container usually matched the labeling, and the dosages were not off too much. They also found that the pharmacies made frequent mistakes and sent bottles of drugs not requested. They conclude: "Though there remains a clear risk to buying cheaper drugs over the Internet, as long as the requested drug brand is delivered and the site has a physical address, contactable by phone, the risk is really pretty small."

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