Media Guide

MEDIA GUIDE: Personal Prescription Importation

Personal prescription importation from certified, trusted, and legitimate Canadian pharmacies has been used by millions of Americans as a safe and affordable alternative to the exorbitant prescription drug prices in the U.S.

For decades, Americans with access to Canada travelled to brick-and-mortar Canadian pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. In fact, elected officials would often take buses of constituents across the border to do so, including Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont (now Senator Sanders), Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and many others. The internet has expanded access for Americans who do not live close to the U.S.-Canadian border.

THE IMPACT

The high price of brand name drugs in the U.S. has created a serious health crisis.

Millions of people, often the elderly with chronic health conditions, are either skipping doses, splitting pills, or forgoing medications completely.

  • This is a burden for individuals. The high cost of health maintenance drugs often forces individuals to choose between their medications and gas, food, or even their mortgage. Millions who need medications to treat conditions from asthma and COPD to high cholesterol to arthritis pain are at the mercy of drug makers who can charge “whatever the market will bear.”
  • This is a burden for caregivers. Caregivers are often family members and they also face hard health care decisions as they are responsible for the financial and physical administration of health care, including providing health maintenance daily medications. This results in a financial strain on these caregivers, as well as their immediate families.
  • This is a burden to the U.S. healthcare system. Primary and secondary health issues created by non-adherence is estimated to cost up to $300 billion in avoidable healthcare costs in the U.S. annually, representing 3-10% of total U.S. healthcare costs (Source: Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 2014).
  • This is a burden to the American taxpayer. Net spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. hit $310 billion in 2015, an 8.5% increase over 2014, and this figure is only expected to increase (Source: IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 2016). Many individuals who import their medications from licensed Canadian pharmacies are on Medicare or Medicaid. When these individuals cannot afford their health maintenance drugs, the resulting non-adherence snowballs into health complications that can easily result in otherwise avoidable hospitalizations. In turn, government healthcare programs – and thus American taxpayers – pick up the tab.

These are untenable situation. But, there is a solution.

THE SOLUTION

Personal prescription importation gives millions of people access to critical health maintenance medications at a 50-80 percent savings, providing a necessary lifeline for those that cannot afford medications in the U.S. (Source: Canadian International Pharmacy Association, 2016) This lifeline is especially critical for those on a fixed income, such as seniors.

Studies and reviews confirm that credentialed online pharmacies are safe, providing compliant, safe medications for verified prescription medications. For example, since 2002 pharmacies certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association have maintained a 100% perfect safety record while serving more than 10 million Americans. Further, research from the American Enterprise Institute demonstrated that credentialed sites sold “good quality medicines” (Source: American Enterprise Institute, 2016).

There is strong public support and bipartisan Congressional support for personal prescription importation. Indeed, 72% of Americans are in favor of allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from Canada, and 74% believe this solution would be effective in keeping prescription drug costs down (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, August 2015).

As lawmakers struggle to address the issue of high drug prices, facing intense resistance from Big Pharma, allowing personal prescription importation from Canada is the simplest, most immediate solution to provide Americans with reasonable access to safe, affordable prescription medications.

SURVEY ON IMPORTATION

In December 2017, we released a survey of Americans that assesses their experiences and perspectives on ordering prescription medications from licensed, legitimate online pharmacies in Canada.

Despite the rampant myths of safety concerns and lack of cost savings, the reality is that many people continue to purchase their personal prescriptions from online pharmacies in Canada, safely and at considerable cost savings.

Millions of people have been accessing prescription medication this way for many years, as they have learned that there are affordable and safe options to avoid the outrageous prices of pharmaceuticals in the U.S.

Below are highlighted findings from our national survey:

Primary Reason is Cost: The majority of respondents (79 percent) – cite cost as the primary reason that they order their medications from an online pharmacy in Canada. The other reasons cited include consistency in pricing (7 percent); convenience (5 percent); consistency in availability (5 percent); and lack of availability in the U.S. (4 percent).

Spending through Ordering Online: The majority of respondents (75 percent) spend less than $199 per month ordering personal prescriptions from licensed online pharmacies in Canada. Fourteen percent of respondents spend between $200-$299 and 10 percent spend more than $300. Among people who reported spending more than $300, the average amount they reported spending is $502 per month.

Savings through Ordering Online: We also asked survey respondents to compare what they would spend on their prescriptions in the U.S. to what they pay by purchasing them through a licensed online pharmacy in Canada. More than 60 percent of survey respondents report saving $100 or more each month by ordering through an online pharmacy. Among people who spend more than $300 per month (14 percent of respondents), the average savings that they report is $870.

Insurance Coverage:
Despite having Medicare or other insurance coverage, many Americans still purchase safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada. More than half of respondents (53 percent) report having Medicare, while 18 percent report paying out-of-pocket for their medications. Seventeen percent report that their employer provides insurance coverage, while nine percent are self-insured.

Years of Ordering Online: The majority of respondents (65 percent) report ordering their prescription medications from an online pharmacy for less than three years. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) have been using online pharmacies for between four and seven years, and 11 percent of respondents have been ordering for more than eight years.

Recommendations to Family and Friends: Overwhelmingly, survey respondents (98 percent) would recommend ordering prescription medications from an online pharmacy in Canada to their family and friends because they believe it is a safe option.

Initial Awareness of Ordering Online: Twenty-six percent of respondents learned about online pharmacies from a doctor or pharmacist. Thirty-three percent of people surveyed heard about ordering drugs from Canada through a website. More than 25 percent learned about online pharmacies from friends or family members and 16 percent heard about them from the media.

This survey illustrates the reality that many Americans buy their daily prescription medications from licensed, legitimate Canadian pharmacies each year.

The high price of brand-name drugs in the U.S. has created a serious health crisis and is a significant burden for the elderly and others on fixed incomes. Millions of people, often the elderly with chronic health conditions, are either skipping doses, splitting pills, or forgoing medications completely, which can lead to serious health consequences.

Importing prescription medications from safe, verified pharmacies in Canada provides a lifeline to those in need of affordable life-saving and health maintenance medications.

Methodology: CPPI conducted this online survey between August 14 and October 12, 2017. Based on the universe of followers of CPPI, this sample of 2,851 responses represents findings with a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent.

MYTH vs. FACT

Opponents of personal prescription importation leverage an arsenal of untruths and misinformation to wage a message war against the practice since it undercuts their profits and threatens their business model.

The reality is that millions of Americans import their daily prescription medications from legitimate, licensed pharmacies in Canada at significantly reduced prices. For many people, this means that they can afford their life-saving medication as well as pay their mortgage and provide food for their families.

Many “claims” use fear to attempt to influence consumer choice:


MYTH:
The importation of prescription drugs from Canada is unsafe and harmful to Americans.

FACT: Over the last 15 years, millions of Americans have imported their daily prescription medications from Canada. Pharmacies in Canada are licensed in each province and sell medications approved by Health Canada, with comparable oversight to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies have shown that personal prescription importation from legitimate, certified online pharmacies in Canada is safe and results in considerable cost savings. Roger Bate conducted a National Bureau of Economic Research study to assess the quality and price of drugs purchased through online pharmacies. Among the drugs sampled from certified online pharmacies, all passed quality-control tests.1

 

MYTH: Many drugs that come from Canada to Americans may not originate in Canada, but instead can come from places with lax regulatory systems.  Drugs imported from other countries lack oversight by any health authority, and there is a high likelihood that these drugs are mishandled.

FACT: Canada sources its medications from the same manufacturers as the U.S., there is no difference in the quality of prescription drugs sold in the U.S. compared to Canada. Recent research shows that 70 percent of the top-selling brand name drugs sold in U.S. pharmacies are manufactured outside the country, and these same drugs are sold for up to 87 percent less in Canada. In 2011, the FDA acknowledged that 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications and 40 percent of prescription drugs sold in the U.S. were foreign-made, which is an underestimate based on studies.2


MYTH:
Medicines on the U.S. market are regarded as the safest in the world. The relatively closed distribution system plays a critical role in helping to keep the global proliferation of counterfeit medicines from infiltrating the U.S. prescription drug system.

FACT: The regulatory system in Canada is equivalent to the regulatory system in the U.S. This means that the supply chain – the system that moves prescription drugs from manufacturer to pharmacy to end user – is just as safe in Canada as it is in the U.S.


MYTH:
Allowing importation from Canada will increase the existence of rogue pharmacies and counterfeit drugs.

FACT: Rogue pharmacies selling counterfeit medication online are dangerous to patients. These websites may never go away completely, but legislation will create a mechanism to compile a list of legitimate online pharmacies that will enhance safety by steering consumers away from sites that are not on the list, minimizing the number of counterfeit medications coming into the country.

 

MYTH: Allowing importation from Canada will increase the number of dangerous opioids coming into the U.S.

FACT: The proliferation of opioids has created a national health crisis. Licensed, legitimate online pharmacies in Canada do not dispense opioids. While opponents have tried to connect these two issues, they are indeed separate issues as opioid distributors are not the same as licensed, legitimate online pharmacies that dispense prescription medications.

 

As lawmakers struggle to address the issue of high drug prices, facing intense resistance from the pharmaceutical manufacturers, allowing personal prescription importation from Canada is the simplest, most immediate solution to provide Americans with reasonable access to safe, affordable prescription medications.

While we are pleased to see Congress and others putting forth options to address absurdly high drug prices, most proposals will take years to implement, if they move forward at all. On the other hand, Congress can provide relief today by allowing importation of personal-use medications from credentialed, verified Canadian pharmacies.

We will continue to fight for the right of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medications.

1 Bate, R., Jin, G. & Mathur, A. (2013). In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 14(1), pp. 111-150. http://bit.ly/2u7Fxhn

2 PharmacyChecker.com (2017) Study on country of origin sources and pricing of prescription drugs. Prices recorded between May 1st and June 30th, 2017 through GoodRX.com and PharmacyChecker.com. http://bit.ly/2xJXenK

ISSUE BACKGROUNDER

For decades, Americans with access to Canada have been traveling to brick-and-mortar Canadian pharmacies to fill their prescriptions.

Since 1999, elected officials would often take buses of constituents across the border to buy prescription medications. In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) organized numerous bus trips and were viewed as leaders of the effort to help Americans access safe and affordable prescription medications from Canada.

Many other elected officials followed their lead, including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Former Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), among others. Many others have fought tirelessly for the right of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medications, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, among others.

While bus tours originated in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, many other bus tours soon started in other states including Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. Some physicians in U.S. border towns even obtained licenses that allowed them to prescribe medications in Canada.

These trips were worth it – consumers were paying up to 81 percent more for their medications in the U.S. compared to what they would pay in Canada based on the 10 most widely-prescribed prescription drugs, according to a Congressional Research Service study. Americans now spend on average $1,000 per person each year on prescription medications, which is approximately 40 percent more compared to prescription medication spending by Canadians. Over the past several decades, prescription drug prices have continued to skyrocket and the trend does not seem to be slowing or ceasing any time soon.

Many of the same Congressional champions continue to fight for personal prescription importation today, facing intense resistance from a powerful Big Pharma lobby. The pharmaceutical industry continues to be among the most profitable public businesses in the United States, and the majority of these companies spend more on marketing than on researching and developing new treatments and cures.

The Internet has expanded access to licensed, legitimate online pharmacies for Americans who don’t live close to the U.S.-Canadian border. For more than 15 years, millions of Americans have imported their personal prescriptions from Canada and saved between 50-80 percent on the cost of their medications.

We will continue fighting for the rights of Americans to access safe and affordable prescription medication.

Sources:
“Bargain Drug Prices Spark Border Crossings”, LA Times, Elizabeth Mehren, December 4, 2000

“Jaunts Across the Border Best Prescription for High Drug Prices”, Pew Charitable Trusts, Maureen Cosgrove, September 26, 2000
“Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals?”, PBS Newshour, Valerie Paris, OECD, February 7, 2014

“Big Pharmaceutical companies are spending far more on marketing than research”, Washington Post, Ana Swanson, February 11, 2015

 

About the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation
https://personalimportation.org

The Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI) is a national nonprofit patient advocacy organization that fights for Americans’ access to safe, affordable prescription medications from Canada for personal use. Tens of millions of Americans – especially the elderly and others on fixed incomes – struggle to pay the extremely high price of prescription medications in the U.S. We are here to be their voice. Millions of Americans use licensed Canadian pharmacies annually, to purchase their daily prescription medications at an affordable price. We believe that all Americans have a right to affordable medications. It is time to change the current U.S. policy on this issue to provide immediate access to life-saving medications, taken daily for chronic health conditions, at affordable prices.