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By Frank Kaiser
Originally written Feb. 2002, last updated June 23, 2011

This web page was recently listed as #1 in an article about buying prescription meds online "50 of the Best Sites with Information on Prescription Drugs" by MedicalInsurance.org.

What To Look For...

1. Is the pharmacy licensed and regulated in its home country?

2. Does the pharmacy require a written, signed prescription from the patientís doctor?

3. Are the items for sale made by leading brand-name manufacturers?

4. Does the pharmacy have a licensed pharmacist reviewing order and answering if needed?

5. Does the pharmacy guarantee patient privacy and confidentiality of all pharmacy records?



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This is for the 14 million seniors who, like me, have chronic illness and no prescription drug coverage. Bush's heralded Medicare Drug Benefit will do little but transfer almost a trillion dollars from our pockets to the insurance and drug companies. [See "A Swan Song for Medicare."]

Unfortunately, although the bill does help seniors somewhat, the bill is fiscally irresponsible and puts a huge spike into the coffin of Medicare. (Watch April 1, 2007 60 Minutes feature.).

Bush's newest [March 2003] heralded Medicare Prescription Benefit is even souring members of his own party by asking seniors to leave Medicare and their doctors if they want a drug benefit. Many of us must continue to look North if we're to afford both food and medicine.

Here's the scoop...

After investigating several Canadian pharmacies, my wife and I paid $624.77 for a three-month supply of drugs at an online Vancouver registered pharmacy. These same drugs cost us $1,208.04 buying at Walgreen's, Target, and Kmart where we shopped for the lowest prices.

That's a saving of $583.27 which includes a Canadian physician's rewriting your doctor's prescriptions — required by Canuck law — personal consultations, and shipping.

Chances are, you can save 25 to 80 percent buying your drugs in Canada.

In spite of a much stronger Canadian dollar, there are still big savings to be had across the board. A 100-day supply of Celebrex 200 mg is $151 in Canada, about $262 at your corner drug store. Nexium is $280 (112 pills) there, $584 here. Lipitor 20 mg is $134 there, $449 here. Have your doctor write 40 mg Lipitor, cut them in half, and pay only $67.

There is nothing dangerous or criminal about buying drugs in Canada. For years, Americans have been driving across the border to buy prescription drugs at lower government-regulated Canadian prices. Now, Canadian drugstores are marketing mail-order drugs directly, offering anyone in the US with a valid US prescription the benefits of Canadian price controls. As of 2005, two million American seniors are taking advantage of these huge savings.

No One Wants to Arrest Granny

What's the catch? If Big Pharma had its way, customs and the FDA would be confiscating all imported drugs, crying that the government can't guarantee their safety. But that just isn't the case. Your pharmaceuticals come in the same sealed packages you get at your corner drugstore.

Anyway, it would be politically incorrect to arrest grandma for trying to make ends meet. Some members of Congress even encourage the practice by listing Canadian pharmacies on their Web sites.

Here's how it works. For current prices, either call or visit the Web sites [see below] of some of the many reputable Canadian drug stores offering this service. Since each store has different prices as well as varying shipping costs, etc., comparisons can be tricky.

Most, however, end up within a few dollars of one another.

Once you decide on a druggist, simply fax your prescriptions for a 90-day supply, renewable in three months. In my case, a doctor then called and reviewed each script with me. Furnish your credit card number and you'll have your drugs in a week. At an average of at least 40 percent off what you have been paying her.

Services vary. Some charge for shipping, some don't. You can get automatic refills for up to a year. And prices are in US dollars. This has become a very competitive business with over a billion dollars changing hands across the border last year. I'd suggest that you pick two or three pharmacies from the list below, compare prices, and order.

That's all there is to it. Though certainly not a long-term solution to many older Americans' inability to afford essential medication, this may help some of you as a stopgap.

It's certainly a Godsend to me and my wife.

NOTE TO READERS FROM FRANK KAISER: Please note that this column was written completely independent of advertising influences. It was only after I wrote it that some Canadian drug stores wrote me, asking to advertise on this site. Since I try to make a living by writing the column and selling advertising on the site, I accepted their advertising.

The Suddenly Senior advertisers are on the list just below. They are all very good companies. I know. I have tried them all. But rest assured, please, that I maintain a wall between the editorial and advertising sections of this site. You must be able to trust what I say to be free of commercial influence.

NOTE AS OF JANUARY 2009: Because there are absolutely no market restraints on name-brand drugs (and generics are being held back by both the FDA and drug company payoffs to generic companies), Canada is still far cheaper than the US, cheaper even than the average Plan D coverage according to the US Congress.

The FDA and Customs has now stopped their harassment and interception of imported pharmaceuticals. Our readers letters to Congress paid off.


FREE! Join 41,000 of the most intelligent people on earth getting Suddenly Senior (and "World's Best Jokes") free by e-mail. CLICK HERE!.

You can order with a prescription up to three months at a time without any hassle.

A comparison between U.S. and Canadian prices for 90-dose supplies of some commonly prescribed drugs, as compiled by the office of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., a proponent of allowing drug imports. All prices are in U.S. dollars:

Drug Prices ————U.S. / Canada

Effexor XR Depression $302 — $169
Lipitor Cholesterol 321 — 164
Neurontin Seizures 148 — 103
Nexium Heartburn 417 — 269
Plavix Blood thinner 370 — 253
Prevacid Heartburn 420 — 213
Zocor Cholesterol 179 — 137
Zoloft Depression 249 — 164

The Role and Mission of the Association is to support Canadian International Pharmacies in their delivery of high quality, affordable medications to patients around the world.

CIPA provides all American consumers with the following straightforward advice to guarantee that they are dealing with a licensed, safe and reputable Canadian pharmacy:

  1. Look for the Provincial Pharmacy License number on the website and call the corresponding Provincial Regulatory Authority to verify the legitimacy of the license. See www.napra.org for a list of the Canadian Provincial Regulatory Authorities)

  2. Look for a physical address in Canada listed on the website – sometimes in the "About Us" section

  3. Look for toll free phone numbers – call them and ask to speak to a pharmacist to answer your questions and check prices

  4. Look for the CIPA Certification Seal as an added verification of quality

  5. Make sure the pharmacy requires a valid prescription from your doctor – many bogus Websites do not require this (i.e. SPAM and pop-up ads)

  6. Make sure the pharmacy requires your patient medical history or profile be completed before ordering

  7. Make sure the pharmacy requires a signed Patient Agreement.

Next in this occasional Suddenly Senior series, "Finding cheap and free drugs. Where to go. How to qualify." CLICK HERE!

Read the Miami Herald story comparing generic drug prices. Costco's cheapest. CLICK HERE FOR STORY

Read Frank's column about Big Pharma's reaction to buying drugs in Canada, "Drug Firms Add Canada to Axis of Evil." CLICK HERE


A reader writes: I read your internet column about buying Canadian prescriptions over the internet by US citizens. Is it legal? Or is it illegal (and just winked at by US law enforcement)?

Frank responds: Congress has twice passed and two presidents have signed legislation designed to make it absolutely legal to reimport drugs from Canada, but both times the cabinet-level Health and Human Services secretary concluded the safety and quality of the imported drugs could not be assured. Little surprise with all the money Big Pharma has poured into the Washington, especially to the Bush Administration.

On May 7, 2003, The Canadian government officially said it is responsible for the safety and quality of this large and growing flow of prescription drugs across the border to US consumers.

If you can't trust Canada, who can you trust?

Yet, strictly speaking, Bush has made importation and all its savings illegal, but the US Food and Drug Administration has allowed the mail-order service direct to customers under a "compassionate non-enforcement" policy to help Americans unable to afford the higher-cost medicine at home.

No one has ever been arrested or threatened for importing drugs from our northern neighbor. Millions of Americans are now "breaking the law." I know I am.

Currently as of July 2009, the US Senate has now"legalized" your drug purchases from Canadian pharmacies. The matter is still pending in the House.

Want to comment on this week's Suddenly Senior column? Click here!

HOW TO TELL IF YOU'RE ORDERING FROM A LEGITIMATE PHARMACY — If the pharmacy cannot provide you with an address, phone, or doesn't require an Rx - don't use them.

Additionally, all Canadian pharmacies are required to list or verbally give a license number if necessary. If it's not posted, the customer can always ask for it. Every Province has a College of Pharmacy whereby customers can call a toll free number and verify a license number. Most all Colleges have a website which posts their toll free number.

The best accreditation is by the Provincial licensing bodies. They all the addresses for pharmaceutical associations across Canada who routinely inspect licensed internet pharmacies and if they are in violation of the pharmacy code of ethics or standards of practice they either have to fix it or lose their license.

Also, there are marketing organizations like CIPA, the North American Pharmacy Accreditation Commission and Pharmacy Checker whose logos some Canadian pharmacists display.

Then, last summer, I got an anonymous call claiming that drugs bought in Canada are inferior, even dangerous. Other seniors received the same disinformation via mailouts and advertising.

To the contrary, I believe that the majority of Americans buying in Canada cannot afford drugs at all at artificially inflated American prices.

Were the drug companies — the top seven of which took in more in pure profit than the top seven auto companies, the top seven oil companies, the top seven airline companies, and the top seven media companies — fretting that they might lose a nickel or two?



Erma Bombeck
"Humor Writer of the Month"

"Kaiser's the perfect mix of Andy Rooney, Dave Barry, and Garrison Keillor, combining knee-slapping humor with useful information and genuine compassion." RETIRED.COM

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