Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Canadian drugs

Almost every day, I have a patient ask me what I think about getting prescription drugs from Canada. I have to admit that I'm really torn on this. I understand that the cost of prescription drugs is a major problem -- especially for my older patients (I don't want to get into why drugs are so expensive. That's an entirely different post.)

Formerly, the federal government, through the Department of Homeland Security, halted shipments of imported (Canadian) prescription drugs. According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, this practice will be abolished and instead random searches will occur.
Popular medications such as Lipitor and Fosamax can be 30% to 80% cheaper from Canada and other countries, surveys have shown. But the U.S. government was confiscating as much as 20% of the shipments this year.
But, sometimes the integrity of these imported drugs needs to be questioned. This topic was covered on a recent episode of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
“It sounds so good, cheap prescription drugs just a click away on the Internet,” said anchor Katie Couric as she introduced the September 20 “Eye on Medicine” report, but, “it could be really dangerous because you may not be getting what you think you are.”

Correspondent Jim Stewart told viewers of a federal bust of “11 people and an Atlanta-based company with a scheme to sell the fake drugs over the Internet.” Stewart noted that the phony drugs were manufactured in “a rented house in Belize” and the Web site peddling them told customers it was a Canadian pharmacy selling re-imported drugs.
I realize I may start a firestorm here with people pointing fingers at other people and groups. But, what's the answer here? I don't know. I do worry about the authenticity of imported drugs. I also worry that prescription drugs are expensive and my patients are doing what they can to stay as healthy as they can, even if they have to get their drugs from Canada.


Anonymous said...

I hope this people feel better quickly it must be hard for them to pay so much for things to help them cope with their lives better...

Anonymous said...

My friend gets almost all her drugs from Canada. But, she knows it is a legitimate pharmacy. We are in Ohio so it is only a couple hours drive to Windsor. Many times she sends her prescriptions and then I have rode with her while she picks them up.

Since she has went on the Medicare prescription card I don't think she is getting many(if any) from Canada now.

Besides going to Windsor to pick up her medicine also gave us an excuse to stop by the casino. You know, just for a few minutes....:)I wondered how much money she actually saved on her prescriptions, after the casino stop.

The Curmudgeon said...

Doesn't the Canadian government set the prices for legitimate meds in Canada? If Americans cross the border to buy Canadian prescriptions, doesn't that impact the availability of medicine for Canadians? On the other hand, don't pharmaceutical manufacturers "make up" from Americans (via high prices) what they can't get in countries that set prices? How the heck do you unravel all that, Doc?

Anonymous said...

im with cathy if you can verify that the place your getting them from is a legit company.. then why not?... it's kinda scary not knowing the regulations other country's place on there stuff.. but.. it's so darn expensive here.. i have ins and even with my ins i go without my meds cause i just can't afford them...*hands in air* whats a girl to do?

rdl said...

I'm waiting for Part 2: Why they are so expensive.

Dream Mom said...

I looked into many options including drugs from Canada for my son's seizure disorder (he has intractable seizures and a VNS) but felt uncomfortable about ordering from there, since I had no idea if what I was getting was what I ordered and a host of other issues.

I freaked out in January, because of a high deductible plan which required that all prescriptions be paid out of pocket at 100% and then reimbursed via a HSA. The problem with the HSA was that the employer portion was spread out over multiple deposits and you could only access the employee contribution in the amount of your deduction. Hence in January, there was one payroll deduction and a small employer deposit to draw from. The problem was that if I did a mail order prescription, I had to pay the entire cost of three months worth of one drug (with the former plan, I only paid a small co-pay) which was expensive. Dear Son's on about eight different meds so the cost was over $3,000 for a three month supply. That's pretty steep in addition to all of his other medical bills.

I don't know what the answers are, but we need to figure something out.

Smalltown RN said...

Yes, I think you have opened the flood gates on this one. Being Canadian and a health care professional. We can say the same of our american neighbours drugs and care. Any company can be fraudulant with drugs wether they are Canadian,American, European whatever. That is where the Federal agencies for monitoring drugs in and out of country comes into play. In Canada it takes 10 20 years for drugs to be approved and this partially has to do with patents on drugs. In the states it takes 8 - 10 years. Is one drug or country supplying a better product I am not sure about that.

Cost. Well if my fellow Canadians have the money they can come across the border and have a procedure done the next day. Is the procedure any better than in Canada. Not necessarily so. Demand and supply and the almighty dollar. We here in Canada have public health care. We may have to wait a little longer to get a surgery, but I don't have to sell my first born, or kidney to get it.

Sorry Doc, I have to disagree with you on this one. Public health care might be slow but it is there for everyone, not just the privileged. As far as mediciations go it's like anything do your research.

On another note, I see you everywhere I look at other blog rolls. You have made quite the name for yourself. Cheers.

Dr. A said...

Angela, You're definitely right about that.

Cathy, Good idea to establish with a pharmacy that you know so you know what you're getting. I've also been to Windsor, nice place.

Curmudge, Good point. I've never thought from the Canadian angle. Wonder how they feel about Americans taking all their drugs.

WB, I hear you. Even though we have the best health care in the world, our health care system sucks, plain and simple. I put my hands up too not sure what to do.

RDL, Sometime when I'm really fired up, I'll go on a rant of why I think prescription drugs are high.

DM, It's sad that your son has to be caught up in all the politics of this. You're doing the best you can, but cost in getting in the way. I agree with you that a solution needs to be found.

Dr. A said...

QRN, I think we'd have an interesting discussion about the Canadian vs. US health care system. No malice, just ideas. Thanks for your insight.

Smalltown RN said...

Sorry, please bare with me on this one. This topic is near and dear to me. After reading your post again, thoughts came to mind. The reporters comments on CBS, are misleading and can be interpreted many ways. What she says can be said about any drug coming from anywhere in the world. Do we ever really know what we are getting unless we have a clear understanding of pharmacology? As I said any company can be fraudulant, and the product can come from any country.

After reading one of the comments from a fellow blogger, I find it a travesty that she just doesn't buy some of her meds because she can't afford them. Now how practical is that? Where do you save health care dollars there? If they don't take their meds because they can't afford them, then they run the risk of becoming ill, hence using more health care dollars for either another doctors visit or heavan forbid a visit to the ER. So tell me where is the savings there. I would like to know, why the HMO's have so much control over your health care and are given carte blanche for what a person can or can not have, even when the person is paying insurance.

There are 40 millions Americans that don't have health insurance. Do you realise that is more than the whole population of Canada!!! All Canadians are offered and entitled to health care!!! Food for thought don't you think?

It's me, T.J. said...

There are a lot of problems with illegal and illicit activities of all kinds.

Whether its drugs or something else.

We run into "diverted" and "bootleg" veterinary drugs too.

Could the U.S. companies come down some on price?

Sure they could.

Could medical costs come down?

You bet.

What drives the American economy is what drives the medical economy as well.

Would I echange our system of healthcare for socialized care?


Competition helps to ensure that I get the "biggest bang for my buck".

We just need a more competition in the healthcare system so that it will drive our costs down.


Biomed Tim said...

For those of you who care,

Here's the answer to Why Canadian drugs are cheaper

Dr. A said...

Found an interesting article about the US and Canadian health care systems. I think it gives a fair analysis on both sides. Just something else to think about.