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Drug Costs Get Real March 6, 2014

Posted by skinbad in Economics, Family.

I kind of hesitate to do this because I don’t want to get too personal, but I guess I can just throw out a few things I’ve learned over the last few months.

One of your kids getting a chronic health disorder shakes your world. It’s not life-threatening, but it is serious and something she’s going to deal with all her life.

Thank God (and science) for medications that make a miserable condition livable.

No matter how long medicines have been around, this doesn’t mean a generic version is available. If it’s not economically worth it for a drug company to produce the generic because there aren’t enough people with the condition, then there just isn’t one (although one might be available out of the country–more on that in a moment).

By most measures, I have good health insurance. I work for our state’s higher education system. It pays 60 percent of prescription costs. The drug company also gave us a discount card that takes $120 off the price each month for a year. I guess you can get a new card then, I don’t know. Even so, our out of pocket expense for this drug is hundreds of dollars each month. It’s more than any car payment I’ve ever had–not half of our mortgage, but pretty close to it.

It’s possible to keep paying this, but it’s a serious blow to the budget. So we did what a lot of people have done–started trying to find out if there are other ways to get this medicine for less money. Because it feels like you’re getting held up–that somebody is ripping you off. That it just isn’t right. Friends with other illnesses in their families told us to try this or that program to see if we can get help with the cost. But, we have insurance, we don’t qualify–at least with the ones we’ve checked on.

I started researching getting drugs from Canada. It’s not technically legal, but the FDA basically turns a blind eye to personal use prescriptions that aren’t bought in mass quantities. There are ways to check on the Canadian pharmacies to see if they are registered/legit in Canada. We did that, priced a generic alternative, emailed them our prescription and bought enough for three months for the price of one month of our out of pocket-expense with our local pharmacy. The Canadians told us it would take three weeks to arrive because it would be coming from India. We swallowed hard because that was a new wrinkle. They assured us it was exactly the same medicine.

So, (unless these pills don’t work and we have to go back to the local pharmacy) the U.S. drug company will end up getting nothing and this online Canadian pharmacy (I’m sure one of hundreds) that exists to sell medicine to U.S. citizens will split my payment with their Indian counterparts. I want the drug companies to make a profit. I want them to have enough money to do research so that better drugs can be produced. But everybody has a line and they found mine.

It is a seriously screwed up situation.



1. aliceaitch - March 6, 2014

I have to do the same thing with two of my medications, and may start doing it with a third. I have a medication I’m supposed to take 4 to 6 times per day to keep from feeling nauseated and puking all the time. After Obamacare was put into place, it was deemed to be a lifestyle medication and so only 20 tablets per month are covered. The out of pocket cost is $440 per month (after a $15 copay for the 20 tablet allotment) but I can get a month’s supply for about $150 by ordering from a pharmacy in Canada. I’m heading to the doctor today to get a copy of my prescription so I can start ordering it, I’ve been hoarding the medications the last few months until I could make it to the doctor.

The other medication I’ve been ordering for a couple of years, because my insurance has never covered it. (Apparently not falling asleep while you drive is considered a lifestyle choice.) The medication came from India, took three weeks to get here, and it worked just as well as what I got from the pharmacy down the street.

So…monitor things. You can get quality medications through mail order.

2. OBF - March 6, 2014

We have the Canadian route as well for a few things Mrs. OBF takes on a regular basis. Never had any problems.
Following a routine exam my doc had me take some pain meds for arthritis. Went to the local pharmacy to get the pills. The bill was $150 +. When I said I would just pay because I hadn’t hit the decuctible he backed off and told me to wait a minute. 5 to 8 minutes later he comes back out with the same pills, enetered me in some discount plan and the bill was $15.00

Later I sent him 4 tickets to see the Utah Jazz (they suck this year). He took his brother and a couple of kids and had a great time. I got cheaper pain meds but the Jazz still suck.

Sorry about the child with the health issue. He/she clearly has parents that have no limitations on their love. With time and the grace of God the child will flourish as well as continue to a source of joy.

All my best.

3. skinbad - March 6, 2014

You and me times however many millions of people are doing this–you would think it would make sense to price drugs a little higher in the U.S. so you can deal with your local pharmacy, get things quickly and pay–I don’t know, 10 percent more than this mail order work-around. Thanks for your comment and best wishes with your health challenges.

4. skinbad - March 6, 2014

That comment in response to Alice. Didn’t see OBF before posting. You’re lucky he didn’t charge you more after the “gift” of the Jazz tickets! Thanks for your concern.

5. Cathy - March 6, 2014

My heart goes out to you folks on meds. What a train wreck! Hugs.

6. lauraw - March 6, 2014

It is hard to believe that meds could possibly actually cost that much. The mind rebels. It really does feel like being taken. I don’t know if we feel that way because a bottle of aspirin is so cheap, or what. It just doesn’t seem right, or we don’t really have the understanding of the process to know why it could cost so much.

7. geoff - March 6, 2014

Seems obvious that our drug costs are so high because the rest of the world’s costs are so low. We’re subsidizing all the countries with socialized medicine systems, who have negotiated lower rates in country-wide agreements.

Just another form of redistribution of wealth.

8. daveintexas - March 7, 2014

^— this. Only negotiated is a kind word, they are forced by law to sell at a certain price the costs of which are shifted here. They are also forced to sell formulations for generic manufacture, again before the costs of R&D are recouped. You pay for that too.

9. skinbad - March 7, 2014

We only dealt with the Canadian pharmacy. They told us the medication we purchased from them would be sent to us from India.

10. Lipstick - March 10, 2014

I have a medication I’m supposed to take 4 to 6 times per day to keep from feeling nauseated and puking all the me.

I have been nauseated and throwing up for three years now (aside from the other health problems) and have lost 35 pounds since you all saw me at the IBMMP.

I can only get 12 anti-nausea pills per month. The cost to purchase the pills out of pocket is astounding — $1,400, as I recall.

Skinbad, thank you for this post, because it has given me ideas. And I wish you and your family all the best.

11. Lipstick - March 10, 2014

Thank God (and science) for medications that make a miserable condition livable.

And this. Very much this.

There is no way to feel sorry for oneself when we are so fortunate to live in this day and age and in this country.

12. skinbad - March 11, 2014

Back at ya, Lipstick. Very much.

13. Tushar - March 12, 2014

Skinny, see if you can tell me the name of the Indian company. Most of the big name firms are good(they are the ones whose drugs even reach US). I gots contacts in Indian pharma industry. I can ask around for more specifics.

14. skinbad - March 12, 2014

Tushar, we haven’t received the medicine from India yet. When it comes I’ll look at packaging/addressing and let you know what it says. Thank you.

15. digitalbrownshirt - March 14, 2014

My son buys insulin from a Canadian pharmacy since the price has risen so much over the last few years. The kid has a decent job with insurance benefits, but the price is so high for his insulin that he has zero chance of getting out on his own if he bought it locally. It amazes me how insulin is so expensive considering how long it’s been manufactured.

16. Lipstick - March 14, 2014

Skinbad, have you received the medicine yet?

17. Skinbad - March 15, 2014

Got it today.

MFD in India by
Sun Pharma Drugs Pvt Ltd
Plot No 754 Setipool
Nandok Block P.O. Ranipool
East Sikkim 737135

Purchased through CanadaPharmacyonline.com

Dispensed by Zapatero Intl. Ltd. Mer Rouge, Mauritius

18. Tushar - March 15, 2014

I was hoping it would turn out to be Sun Pharma.
At $20 billion, they are the biggest pharma company in India and the only one that does meaningful research instead of just producing copycat generics.
A close acquaintance of mine is a bigshot in their research department.
You are in good hands.

The address you listed is just one of their many factories.
Their HQ is in Bombay.

19. Tushar - March 15, 2014

That $20B is their market cap. Sales are about $2B

20. Skinbad - March 15, 2014

Thank you, Tushar.

21. Michael - March 15, 2014

Hey, can I get the generic version of Pure Herbal Viagra™ from Sun Pharma?

22. Anonymous - March 17, 2014

Michael it is Dorma please go through and delete all my comments from here TY.

23. Elizabeth hebert - September 21, 2020

How can I find out who actually makes the Rx I get thru a Canadian Pharmacy? I know it’s near Mauritius but the only info with my mailed Rx is that Zapatero Int’l dispensed the drug, not that they mfg it. Is there a way to find out if they are made by a reputable Indian company?

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