Personal Importation: Saving Lives

Millions of Americans face a difficult situation – how can they afford the expensive prescription medications that they need? These aren’t luxury items, as people need their prescriptions to reduce pain, breathe normally, or even to live. Without their prescriptions, people can’t stay healthy and their quality of life suffers.

It’s hard for working Americans to make room in their budgets for prescriptions, especially when they also have to worry about house payments or rent, childcare costs, daily living expenses, and more. It’s nearly impossible for many senior citizens on fixed incomes to afford their medications.

Consider that the most widely used prescription drugs had an annual cost of over $11,000 in 2013. That’s almost $1,000 per month. Now compare that to a median household in the United States with an income of $52,250, or the median income of Medicare beneficiaries, which is $23,500. The average Social Security retirement benefit at that time was $15,526. There’s simply no way a senior citizen with that kind of income could afford the average prescription medication, and seniors are exactly the type of people who need their medications the most.

Forced to come up with ways to stretch out their supply of medication, many people split their pills in half, while others simply skip doses. Others just go as long as they can without their medication. After all, if you need your money to pay your rent or buy food, what else are you going to do? A 2015 survey found that among Americans over the age of 65, 19 percent said that they avoid seeking treatment, don’t schedule the diagnostic tests they need, or choose not to fill necessary prescriptions because of the high costs involved.

There is one other solution that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like, and that’s personal importation from Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA)-approved Canadian prescription referral services, which offer prescription medications at significantly lower costs. The savings can be staggering. One comparison showed that monthly drugs with a cash price of $444 and an insurance or Medicare price of $140 would only cost $69.23 when purchased through CIPA businesses. One Wisconsin resident went through an online prescription referral service and found that he could obtain a 3-month supply of his wife’s Prozac prescription for $170, compared to $660 per month if he purchased it locally (and delivery is included).

Of course, U.S. pharmaceutical companies don’t want people getting their prescriptions internationally, as then those companies don’t make as much money. They’ve argued that personal importation is also dangerous because the FDA doesn’t regulate the factories that are making the medications. This would be a valid point, except for the fact that U.S. pharmaceutical companies also use overseas factories, many of which are, in fact, regulated by the FDA.

Personal importation isn’t going away, as it helps too many people afford the prescription medications that they need. There are over 5-million Americans every year who get their prescriptions from outside the United States, and 1 million of them are going through CIPA approved companies.

Although Big Pharma’s warning about the dangers of personal importation came out of concern for their profit margins and not concern for American citizens, it is important to be careful when ordering medications online. There are fraudulent services out there that send out counterfeit medications, and those services have grown in number as the popularity of personal importation has increased.

When purchasing a prescription online, it’s wise to make the purchase through a legitimate CIPA certified business. You can check a company’s credentials online to ensure that it is certified through CIPA. These international prescription referral services have helped over 10-million Americans get the medications they need, and they’ve kept up a 100-percent safety record the entire time.

On the political front, there is good news and bad news regarding personal importation, but the overall outlook is positive.

Big Pharma has been able to increase the budget of its lobbying arm by 50 percent, so it has approximately $300 million that it can put towards its efforts to maintain sky-high medication prices and convince politicians prevent personal importation.

However, Big Pharma is likely going to have trouble getting the political support it needs. When the price of EpiPens went up by 500 percent, there was widespread outrage among politicians. Both candidates in the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, support permitting the safe personal importation of prescription medications. They aren’t alone, as personal importation also received support from the majority of both the Republican and Democrat parties, along with 72 percent of the American people. Americans also wanted medication prices to be the number-one healthcare priority of both the country’s newest President and Congress, according to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.

It’s obvious that personal importation is one of the best and most cost-effective ways for people to get the prescription medications they need, especially with how much U.S. pharmaceutical companies have raised their prices. Fortunately, the practice is also gaining quite a bit of traction politically, and becoming more accepted by the day.