Health & Medical

Canadian Pharmacies Vs. Big Drug Companies

Furthermore, the FDA says some Web sites may not tell you that a drug they sell you is obtained from an overseas supplier. “You may be sent a drug that originated in Australia, Great Britain, or Pakistan,” says McGinnis. “We don’t know anything about the strength, quality, or purity of those medications.”

Patients, however, can avoid such problems by ordering only from pharmacies that have been thoroughly scrutinized by CIPA. To display a CIPA seal on its Web site an online pharmacy must have a valid Canadian license, submit to a quarterly on-site inspection, and keep personal information confidential in compliance with PIPEDA, the Canadian privacy act similar to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, in the U.S.

The online pharmacy must also require you to submit a valid prescription and medical history and to check for possible drug interactions. And CIPA members must let you know in advance if they are supplying you with a medication from another country so you have the right to refuse. You can find a list of the 37 Canadian pharmacies with CIPA seals.

Another source of information about online pharmacies is, whose review process is similar to CIPA’s. It also provides prices and customer feedback.


The flow of prescription drugs from Canada may not last forever.

Ujjal Dosanjh, the Canadian Health Minister, proposed on June 29 that a new supply network is established to keep tabs on the nation’s drugs and those bulk shipments to the U.S. be stopped if the system detects a shortage. In addition, he proposed a requirement that “an established patient-practitioner relationship” should exist before a physician may prescribe any medications.

Whether or not this means that U.S. citizens will have to meet face-to-face with a Canadian doctor before they can purchase drugs will not be determined until sometime this fall when the minister plans to introduce legislation.

Medicare Competition CartoonBut whatever happens, you should take the following steps before ordering:

· Check Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs to learn about drug options, including generics and over-the-counter drugs, that could save you money.

· Ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs, which cost much less than brand-name drugs. Remember to buy them in the U.S., where they are generally cheaper than in Canada.

· If you need a high-priced, brand-name drug, check with the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (; 888-477-2669), which lets you find out in one step whether you are eligible for any of the 275 programs that offer cost savings to consumers.

· If ordering from Canada is the only way you can afford the medication you need, go to for recommendations of approved outlets, and look for the CIPA seal to protect yourself.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2005…



By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter


Prescription drugs are about 24 percent cheaper when bought on Canadian Internet sites than when purchased from the online sites of major U.S. pharmacy chains, new research finds.

The price difference would be even higher if prices at Canadian internet sites were compared to walk-in U.S. pharmacies, said Dr. Mark Eisenberg, senior author of the study, appearing in the Sept. 20 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“There’s a huge, huge outlay for pharmaceuticals in the U.S, and prices are artificially high,” said Eisenberg, an associate professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal. “The same exact drug manufactured by the same exact company costs much less in Canada, so people in the U.S. are paying higher prices than they have to.”

The findings were hailed by some activists in the field.

“On a drug-by-drug basis, someone could save well over $1,000 a year. For someone who is not covered by the soon-to-be-rolled out Medicare program and isn’t elderly and doesn’t have any coverage, $1,000 is huge,” said Sharon Treat, executive director of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices in Hallowell, Maine. “It explains why some people are doing this. It explains why at least 22 states this year looked at legislation addressing importation.” The association acts as a clearinghouse for information for legislators interested in this issue.

“While there is a widespread perception that prescription drugs are less expensive in Canada, there has not been much research to back this up. Everybody says it’s cheaper in Canada and no one knows if it is and, if so, by how much,” Eisenberg said.

In the United States, soaring prescription drug costs and the growth of the Internet have fueled cross-border drug sales in recent years, with one U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study estimating that more than 12 million prescriptions destined for American patients were filled by Canadian pharmacies in 2003 alone, for a total $700 million in sales.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently reported a 25 percent overall increase in U.S. retail drug prices from 2000 to 2004. Price hikes for two brand-name drugs from Pfizer Inc., Lipitor, and Celebrex had the most impact on that increase.

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