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Today, five million U.S. consumers order their prescription medication overseas. It doesn’t surprise me when Tree of Life clients ask for options for purchasing prescription drugs, as their health plans’ out-of pocket expenditures often are prohibitively high. Even clients with otherwise excellent health coverage find they cannot rely on their primary prescription plans to be cost-effective.

This was the case for Barbara, a Tree of Life client whose autoimmune condition causes glaucoma-like symptoms. After experiencing adverse reactions to six different medications, Barbara’s ophthalmologist ordered a new drug. Even with her Medicare Advantage plan coverage, a 30-day supply of eye drops cost $281 at a well-known drugstore chain. I suggested that Barbara price the medication at the Canadian pharmacy I trust. The price of the drug was 87% less than at the drugstore chain.

Shopping at Costco*

I encourage my cost-conscious clients to compare prices at their preferred pharmacy and at Costco, where prices are often significantly lower than at other drugstore chains. (Note: You do not need to be a Costco member to shop at a Costco pharmacy.) But when Costco prices are similar to those of local chains and independent pharmacies, I recommend investigating whether a reputable, online, Canadian pharmacy sells the medication at a lower price. When clients question the safety of drugs purchased in Canada, I remind them that generic and name-brand drugs sold in the U.S. are often manufactured overseas.

Is it safe and legal for me to personally import drugs?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is illegal to import drugs into the U.S. for personal use because an imported compound’s safety and effectiveness cannot be assured. However, FDA’s policy is that the agency does not typically object when an individual imports unapproved drugs, provided certain conditions are met:

  • The drug is not intended for commercial or promotional use.
  • The drug does not represent an unreasonable risk to the consumer.
  • The drug is for use by the individual who orders it and is obtained using a valid prescription.
  • A maximum, three-month supply is purchased.

Four tips for choosing an online pharmacy

  1. Shop at Canada-based pharmacies only, even if you find lower prices at pharmacies in other countries. Canadian pharmacies have been confirmed to be as safe as U.S. pharmacies. (Note: Beware of international pharmacies using false Canadian addresses.)
  2. Choose a pharmacy certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, CIPA. CIPA pharmacies are licensed and regulated by the government for safety. These pharmacies require valid prescriptions. They do not sell controlled substances, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, or stimulants.
  3. The pharmacy where you shop should be a member of the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program or a comparable organization to ensure that its credentials have been verified by a reputable third party.
  4. If a pharmacy website or email gives you a “hinky” feeling, shop elsewhere.

Online pharmacies vary widely. When recommending an online pharmacy, Tree of Life’s priority is our clients’ safety. We value a pharmacy’s transparent practices and pricing. While fearmongering and deception abound in the media about the risks of purchasing prescription medication abroad, bear in mind that disparaging remarks can be attributed to marketing ploys by U S firms to discourage competition. On the other hand, with tens of thousands of unregulated, online pharmacies across the globe—in Russia, China, India, Turkey, and elsewhere competing for sales to U.S. consumers—there is no doubt that counterfeit, contaminated, and wholly worthless products are routinely sold to the unknowing public. Caveat emptor should be every consumer’s mantra, whether shopping in brick-and-mortar chains in the U.S. or online.

If you are currently dealing with a healthcare challenge, I want to be your advocate. To learn more about how I can help, visit my Services page.

* My endorsement of Costco is not associated with monetary gain or other benefit.

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