Doctor Bias Against Fat Patients; Best-Liked Insurers; More

Neil Chesanow


September 06, 2016

In This Article

Florida Lets Residents Buy Cheaper Drugs From Abroad

It is illegal to import drugs into the United States, but in Florida, with its huge concentration of older Americans, regulators look the other way, reports Kaiser Health News.[4] Approximately 15 storefront businesses in the state help thousands of customers—predominantly seniors—place online orders from pharmacies in Canada, England, India, and New Zealand. The medications may cost up to 70% less than what people pay for them here.

These storefront businesses are not pharmacies, and as such they are not subject to the many state and federal laws that regulate pharmacies.[4] Instead, they are order-takers; employees assist customers in online ordering. Only chronic medications are obtained, after a customer pays the pharmacy abroad; the storefronts are paid separately by those pharmacies for serving as brokers. Deliveries usually take less than 1 month.

One customer cited by the article ordered the arthritis medication Celebrex® (celecoxib) from a pharmacy in New Zealand, where brand-name drugs may cost one half of what they cost in a Tallahassee pharmacy.[4]

For many Medicare beneficiaries, such savings may mean the difference between filling a prescription and not filling one. The cost of prescription drugs leaped from 2.5% in 2013 to 12.6% in 2014.[5] Medicare is forbidden by law to negotiate drug prices. In their healthcare proposals, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have advocated that Americans should be able to purchase lower-cost medications from abroad, although both candidates would increase the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight for the sake of patient safety.[5]

Such oversight is necessary. "Prescription medicines bought outside of the U.S. may be old, poorly manufactured, improperly stored or even counterfeit (fake or tampered with)," the FDA's website warns.[4]