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Can you trust Canadian online pharmacies?

Some people cannot tolerate generic medications. There may be different "inactive" ingredients. Can you safely save money using Canadian online pharmacies?
Can you trust Canadian online pharmacies?
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The FDA has a peculiar philosophy about drug importation. It allows pharmacy chains, drug wholesales, big box discount drug stores, nursing homes and lots of other drug distributors to purchase drugs from all over the world. Most generic drugs are imported, with China and India supplying both raw materials and finished pills. There have been huge scandals about fraud and quality control at many of these foreign plants. But if an American citizens want to buy brand name medications from Canadian online pharmacies the FDA warns that this is dangerous. Here is one reader’s question about this practice:

Q. My insurance company will no longer pay for two of my brand-name medications. I am allergic to certain fillers in generic drugs and thus cannot tolerate some.

I am thinking about ordering these two brand-name meds from Canada. I have perused Canadian pharmacy sites on the Internet and some look very good. I wonder if you might know of some Canadian pharmacies that people have had good luck with in relation to the quality of the medication received? We cannot afford to continue paying the outrageous US prices for these medications.

A. Although generic drugs must have the same active ingredient as the brand name equivalent, they often contain different binders, fillers and colors. This can cause serious problems for people who are allergic to such ingredients.

Canadian Online Pharmacies Represent Huge Savings:

Savings on brand name medicine purchased from a legitimate Canadian pharmacy can be dramatic. We asked an organization that carefully monitors Canadian and international pharmacies to do some cost comparisons. PharmacyChecker.com analyzed several common medications. They checked retails prices from a chain drugstore in New York City and compared them to Canadian online pharmacies. Here is what they found for some important brand name medications.

The average savings was 81% when purchased in Canada. The heart drug Lanoxin (digoxin) represented the greatest savings–94% but the drug is marketed by a different pharmaceutical company from the one in the U.S.

Here are some other examples from PharmacyChecker.com. Prices are for the same brand name products in Canada vs. a U.S.-based retail store in NYC for a three-month supply:

Tegretol (carbamazepine) 200 mg cost $2.87 per pill in U.S. $0.77 in Canada

Cleocin (clindamycin) 300 mg cost $24 per pill in U.S. vs. $3.38 in Canada

Catapres (clonidine) 0.1 mg cost $3.34 per pill in U.S. vs $0.45 in Canada

Lanoxin (digoxin) 0.125 mg cost $12.54 per pill in U.S. vs. $0.75 in Canada

Coumadin (warfarin) 5 mg cost $3.69 per pill in U.S. vs. $0.60 in Canada

Narrow Therapeutic Drugs:

All these drugs are considered “narrow therapeutic index” (NTI) drugs. That means the safe dose that works is very close to a toxic dose. This is why it is crucial that patients get a reliable dose that poses no risk of quality control problems or dosage variability. Many people feel that the FDA’s standards on such medications has historically been too lax. That is why some physicians specify the brand name product for NTI medications.

We will be writing more about narrow therapeutic index drugs and brand name price comparisons in future articles. Should you wish to learn which International pharmacies have passed muster with PharmacyChecker.com go to their website at this link.

Remember, we are talking about brand name drugs, not generics. In most cases the brand name medications were made by a major pharmaceutical manufacturer. The same exact pills that are shipped to the U.S. are shipped to Canada and other countries around the world. The same production line spits out these medications according to the original specifications submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.

Brand name pills are pricey in the U.S. because there are no brakes on what brand name companies can charge. In many other countries the government negotiates prices with the big brand name manufacturers, which is why the savings PharmacyChecker.com discovered for narrow therapeutic index drugs purchased in Canada was right around 80%. That is huge, especially when your brand name medicine is expensive and you cannot tolerate the generic.

Can You Trust All Canadian Online Pharmacy Websites?

Sadly, a nice website does not guarantee that an online pharmacy is truly Canadian. Fake online sites might sell counterfeit or substandard medicines.

We have prepared a Guide to Saving Money on Medicine that provides more details on the benefits and risks of shopping for medicines online. In it you will find our ten tips for saving money, including how to shop comparatively, bargain with the pharmacist and learn how to discover if you qualify for free medicine.

It is available electronically at PeoplesPharmacy.com. You can also visit PharmacyChecker.com for comparative pricing and verification strategies when shopping internationally.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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