Monthly Archives: September 2021

Part 2: How to Save Significantly On Your Prescription Drugs – Buying from Canada

This is the second in a two-part series on how to save money on your prescription drugs. If you haven’t already, click here to read Part 1.

In the previous post, we saw how GoodRx may save you hundreds of dollars on your prescription drugs — even if you already have good prescription drug coverage through your health insurance plan.


Update: When I first wrote this piece, I assumed purchasing drugs from Canada was rare and mostly unknown. However, in less than 24 hours since I posted this piece, three people I know have told me they have been purchasing drugs from Canada for some time already.


Another study found that even though the vast majority of medications sold in the U.S. are imported, they cost up to 87% less in Canada, and even less in other countries.

Take Restasis (Cyclosporine), which is a common eye-drop drug prescribed for dry eyes and eye inflammation. Using GoodRx, we find prices for 60 vials of .4 ml drops to be well over $600:

Another popular drug savings website/app, RxSaver.com, does no better:

How would you like to pay half or even a third as much? That is possible if you purchase prescription drugs from Canada.


Update: A friend shared their Restasis story with me:
They were prescribed Restasis by their opthalmologist. Through their employer-provided health insurance plan, they were able to purchase Restasis at $60 (a very good price). They carefully were able to squeeze three doses out of each single-dose vial and through this method over years were able to hoard and build up a supply.

They said, “The # of friends who asked me to sell them my Restasis is staggering.”

Their hairdresser, even their primary care physician asked if they could buy Restasis from them.


But wait, you might protest. Is it safe? Is it legal?

Is it legal?

Short answer: No, it is not. 

Longer Answer: Although it is illegal, as long as you have a valid prescription, you should be okay:

  1. The House of Representatives has passed three versions of bills that would allow consumers to import legal drugs for personal use.
  2. The FDA and Customs Agents do not care, so long as you have a legal prescription.
  3. If they really cared, the FDA and Customs would have to arrest the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Vermont, as well as many city governments and private employers who take advantage of lower drug costs by purchasing them from Canada.

Here are three websites that explain in more detail this illegal-but-not-enforced situation: WebMD, ElderLawAnswers, RxSaver

Briefly, these are the steps to take to order prescription drugs from Canada:

  1. Obtain a written prescription from your doctor.
  2. Research and select a legitimate online Canadian pharmacy.
  3. Select your drug purchase.
  4. Submit your written prescription.
  5. Wait 4 to 8 weeks (yes, really).

1. Obtain a written prescription

Will your doctor cooperate?

Some physicians will work with you. If they are used to prescribing drugs that cost a lot of money, they may even suggest you seek to fill your prescription from a Canadian pharmacy. 

You must have a formal, written prescription.

Image titled Read a Doctor's Prescription Step 1

Most prescriptions in the U.S. are sent directly from the doctor’s office to your pharmacy (electronically or by phone). To order prescription drugs from an online Canadian pharmacy, your doctor must provide you with an official, hard-copy prescription.

Some doctors will not do this. They may be unfamiliar with the illegal-yet-unenforced practices of the FDA and Customs, or may believe the myths about the “safety” (or lack thereof) of drugs purchased abroad.

Depending on the costs and cost savings, you may need to locate a different doctor. I personally know someone who did this and saved hundreds of dollars.

2. Find a legitimate pharmacy 

You need to exercise care when you seek to fill prescriptions from a Canadian pharmacy online. As with anything on the internet, you need to do appropriate research to avoid getting swindled.

First, look for pharmacies that bear the CIPA (Certified Canadian International Pharmacy) Seal:

Second, ensure the one you are considering truly is one of the 63 websites authorized to carry that seal. Those are listed on the CIPA website.

You may also check Pharmacy Checker, which includes Canadian online pharmacies.

Plus, any legitimate Canadian pharmacy will require a written prescription. You will either need to fax or scan and upload a copy of your prescription.

3. Select your drug purchase

Depending on the drug and the pharmacy, this may not be quite as straightforward as you might wish.

The drug name may vary, depending on whether you go with a brand name or generic. Also, the strength, size, and/or dosages may not correspond. Take your time to research the options and contact your doctor if you have questions.

Also, you may be offered a selection of drugs manufactured in many countries (India, China, Turkey, Canada, Belgium, etc.). 

Should you trust drugs manufactured in India, China, or elsewhere?

If you purchase prescription drugs in the U.S., you likely are already taking drugs manufactured in those countries. The vast majority of drugs administered in the U.S. are manufactured in China, India, and elsewhere. Research shows that 70% of popular brand-name drugs sold in the U.S. are imported

4. Submit your written prescription

As stated previously, any legitimate online pharmacy is going to require a valid prescription to fill your order. Most sites will let you upload your prescription. Either scan it or take a picture of it, then upload the image. If you have access to a fax machine, you may send it that way too.

5. Wait 4 to 8 weeks(!)

The biggest drawback about ordering prescriptions from Canada is that you may have to wait several weeks to receive your order. This is because drugs are not usually stocked in Canada and must be shipped from their source. The transit time, plus customs at each international border, accounts for the delay.

Hourglass and calendar Hour glass and calendar concept for time slipping away for important appointment date, schedule and deadline waiting stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Read the pharmacy information carefully. Most predict a 4-to-8-week delivery time.

In our case, our shipment arrived in just under four weeks, fortunately. Even though we were provided a tracking number, we were not able to determine where the drugs were. It only displayed “In transit,” so we really didn’t know when to expect our shipment to arrive.

However, if you need refills, many Canadian pharmacies will allow you to order a refill just 30 days after your initial purchase — which might occur even before you’ve received your first order.

If you cannot wait that long for your first prescription, you may have to pay U.S. prices for your first order, then place your first refill order with a Canadian pharmacy. That way, you’ll avoid a delay in your prescription drug treatment.

Conclusion

U.S. citizens pay much more for their prescription drugs than their neighbors up north and elsewhere. Using GoodRx may help save you hundreds of dollars on the vast majority of your prescription drug purchases. If you are prescribed some extraordinarily expensive medications, consider purchasing them from Canada.

Part 1: How to Save Significantly On Your Prescription Drugs – GoodRx

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on how to save money on your prescription drugs. Click here for Part 2.

Medical costs in the U.S. are high and continue to grow. A major portion of these costs are prescription drugs.

In 2016, $3.3 trillion was spent on health care in the U.S. (17.9% of GDP), and $329 billion of that consisted of prescription drugs.

What can you do to save money? The first solution I recommend for everyone is GoodRx.

But I already have good insurance

That’s great! Even if you have decent drug coverage through your health insurance plan, I recommend you take a moment to visit the GoodRx website and enter in your prescriptions. It takes only minutes.

At worst, you’ll just verify and have the peace of mind that you are indeed getting the best price for your regular prescriptions.

However, I have found more often that not that GoodRx saves me more money than my insurance drug coverage!

I’ve written about GoodRx before, but will go into more detail in this post.

Briefly, GoodRx is a free service available on the web and as an Android and iOS smartphone app that lets you comparison shop as well as take advantage of coupons and pharmacy membership discounts. 

You will be amazed by how much prices can differ between pharmacies. For example, I just did a search for Amlodipine, a common drug for high blood pressure and chest pain. Discount prices ranged from $5.34 to $26.99.

Even if you have decent prescription drug coverage through your health insurance, you may find better prices through GoodRx.

The site sometimes identifies coupons to get the best price. If you look at the example above, you will see buttons on the right for “Get Free Coupon.” Simply click on the button and show the displayed coupon to your pharmacist for your savings.

Some pharmacies offer annual prescription savings clubs. GoodRx will show you the best price if you have such a membership. Typically, the memberships cost $20 to $40 per year and may pay for themselves with just one or two prescription drug purchases.

Here’s how I typically use GoodRx:

  1. When notified I have a prescription ready and waiting for pickup, I go to the pharmacy.
  2. When the pharmacist hands me the prescriptions, I immediately enter the drug name, strength, and dosage into my GoodRx smartphone app.
  3. GoodRx tells me the best price for the drug at that pharmacy; it almost always is better than the price currently listed on my prescription.
  4. I show the pharmacist the GoodRx screen with the required codes.
  5. The pharmacist takes the drugs back, reenters the codes, redoes the price, then returns the drugs to me.
  6. I pay the reduced price and take my prescription.

If you know the precise drug, strength, and dosage ahead of time, you can look up the info beforehand and either call the pharmacy ahead, or just jump to step 4 above when you arrive at the pharmacy.

GoodRx works for pet medication as well!

A friend has a diabetic cat, and the veterinarian wanted to charge more than $200 for a six-month supply of insulin. Using GoodRx, she found insulin for half the price.

As you can see, prices for drugs can vary substantially between pharmacies. If you take prescription drugs month after month, you may save money by switching pharmacies. 

Since many U.S. doctors automatically send a prescription to a drug store, you may have to instruct your caregiver to redirect your prescriptions to a different, preferred pharmacy. Although that may feel like a hassle, the savings over time could be significant and well worth your trouble.

GoodRx is free and easy to use. You don’t have to create an account or reveal any personal details or information. Consumer Reports published a worrisome report in early 2020 about potential data-sharing by GoodRx.

GoodRx responded that it would stop sharing data and posted instructions on how it uses your information and as well as how to delete data from Facebook.

Even if your data still might be shared, the savings could be too great to pass up.

In Part 2, we’ll look at even more significant potential savings if you purchase from Canada.