To save money, Americans have been buying prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet for years. A team of Canadian researchers decided not only to test the perception that the same drugs purchased in Canada are, in fact, cheaper but they also set out to quantify the savings. Their findings, published recently in Annals of Internal Medicine, clearly favor shopping at the Canadian Internet pharmacies.
The researchers led by Bradley S. Quon, MD, compared prices at 12 Internet pharmacies in Canada with those at three major online drug chain pharmacies in the U.S. (CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreen). The 44 brand-name drugs in this study are the medications Americans most often purchase from Canadian Internet pharmacies.
Quon and colleagues found that 41 of the 44 brandname drugs were less expensive in Canada, often substantially so. Only three drugs were more expensive in Canada--the erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. The biggest yearly savings applied to the antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa ($1,159), the diabetes drug, Actos ($852), and the heartburn drug, Nexium ($772).
Other drugs that were considerably less expensive in the Canadian Online pharmacies include the heartburn drugs Prevacid and Prilosec (sold under the brand name Losec in Canada); the antidepressants Celexa, Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Effexor; the antihistamine Zyrtec; and the cholesterol-lowering drugs Lipitor and Pravachol.
American law prohibits drug importation, but individuals are permitted to import up to 90 days worth of medications for personal use, according to Quon and colleagues. They note that Canadian pharmacies have taken advantage of this policy by selling up to a 90-day supply by mail order to Americans.
The Canadian Internet pharmacies were selected for this study on the basis of listings from Pharmacychecker.com. This Web site, Quon and colleagues identified as "a price comparison tool designed to assist consumers in obtaining their prescription medications at the lowest possible prices." The three American pharmacies were chosen because they are the largest drug stores based on sales revenue. (See next page for all Web addresses.)
In 2003, the Bush administration and its Congressional allies passed the Medicare Modernization Act. Despite the disingenuous name, this legislation forbids the federal government from negotiating discount prices for the drugs taken by people on Medicare. Canada--like most other industrialized nations --negotiates discounts with each pharmaceutical company.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Center for Medical Consumers, Inc.
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