FDA: Consumers Are Buying Expensive Foreign Drugs Instead Of $4 Generics At Home

Everyone knows that people buy Viagra over the internet, but the FDA says that people are buying commonly prescribed drugs with cheap generic equivalents from foreign pharmacies.

Why? To avoid having to get a prescription.

The FDA Says:

The investigation found 88 percent of the 2,069 drug packages examined appeared to be prescription medicines available in the United States. Of the remaining products, some were dietary supplements, some were foreign products with labeling that was illegible or incomprehensible, and some were medications not available in the United States. More than half (53 percent) of the products sampled have FDA-approved generic versions, likely sold at lower costs, according to earlier studies that have shown generics in the United States to be generally cheaper than a comparable drug in Canada or Western Europe. In fact, approved generic versions of approximately half (47 percent) of the sampled products can be bought for $4 at several national chain pharmacies, a price often lower than the shipping costs for the same drugs purchased online.

“The data lead us to believe that many people are buying drugs online not to save money but to bypass the need for a prescription from their doctor since these Web sites typically do not require the purchaser to have a prescription,” said Randall Lutter, Ph.D., FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy. “In essence, they seem to be getting and using prescription drugs without a prescription, an intrinsically risky practice.”

The FDA got its data from customs inspectors at international mail facilities and courier facilities across the country.

FDA Says Consumers Continue to Buy Risky Drugs Online [FDA]
(Photo:Getty)

Comments

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  1. Cowboys_fan says:

    Isn’t buying prescription drugs without a prescription equivalent to buying crack on the streets? Perhaps the war on drugs department should look into this. I figure people don’t trust local generic drugs and prefer to buy from somewhere with more credibility. We know the FDA doesn’t approve/disapprove drugs based on health, or effectiveness, but rather how much the drug company lobbies for approval.

  2. kellyhelene says:

    Bypass their doctor? Whatever, FDA… try “don’t have insurance and therefore don’t HAVE a doctor.”

    A friend paid $30-ish for an antibiotics perscription not long ago, with the shipping. He had no insurance.

    Sure, he could have gotten legit drugs here for half that or less, but that would be on top of either paying for the ER visit or, best case scenario, paying a fortune for an office visit, if he was even able to find a doc willing to see someone without insurance- he gave up on that one after 20 calls or so.

    Most people who can’t afford insurance also can’t afford thousands in ER bills for basic ailments, either. Go figure.

  3. Hoborg says:

    It isn’t the drugs that are expensive, it’s being forced to see the doctor every month to get a refill that you know you need anyway. This clearly shouldn’t be done for self-medication or with drugs that could cause complications, but it could be used to bypass a doctor who won’t perscribe refills simply to get you into his office more.

  4. csdiego says:

    It sounds like these people don’t want to pay a doctor to prescribe the drugs or renew their prescriptions. The cost of an office visit (or even the $25+ many doctors charge for a phone renewal) could wipe out the advantage of buying a local generic.

  5. axiomatic says:

    Typical FDA. They come to the wrong conclusion pretty much 100% of the time.

  6. scoobyhed says:

    (Highly legitimate) considerations about having insurance aside, if you pay more for the brand-name drug when the generic is available, you’re an idiot. In many cases, the generic is made at the exact same factory by the same company as the brand. Generics have the same FDA approval process as brands; if one is corrupt, the other is too.

    I used to be a pharmacy tech at a Walgreens and we’d have patients come in and get brand-name Coumadin or Lasix (which have been available in generic form for decades), and pay $50 for a 30-day prescription that would cost about $2.50 as a generic.

  7. lalala1949 says:

    Generics do NOT have the same approval process as brand name drugs. The aNDA process is not nearly as rigorous as the NDA process and one goes through the FDA’s CDER division and the other OGD.

  8. poodlepoodle says:

    In many cases, the generic is made at the exact same factory by the same company as the brand. Generics have the same FDA approval process as brands; if one is corrupt, the other is too.

    This is not true. The approval process is not the same and while the drug may no longer be covered by a patent the time release coating may be. Which is why people have been getting sick off generic Welbutrin because they’ve been getting massive doses of the drug when they should have had a slow release over 12-24 hours.

    But hey I’m sure it saved someone some money.

  9. cashmerewhore says:

    @scoobyhed:

    Not true, generics go through less testing and only have the same active ingredients as the brand drug.

  10. poodlepoodle says:

    I’m sorry for the double post but here is an article on the story I alluded to above:

    [www.pharmalot.com]

    In ConsumerLab’s test, the once-daily Budeprion XL released 34 percent of its active ingredient after two hours, compared to 8 percent for the original drug. “It’s been an eye-opener for everyone,” Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, tells the AP. “It makes you question whether generics are always going to be equivalent to the original product. If these things are releasing at such different rates, it’s hard to believe they’d be acting the same way in your body.” The FDA, however, couldn’t provide data to support ConsumerLab’s findings.

  11. Womblebug says:

    I understand the no insurance no doctor issue. However, when people decide to self-prescribe, I think you’ve got a huge potential for abuse and problems. Case in point: antibiotics are available OTC in Thailand. My mother in law, who is Thai, brought a bunch home after her last trip, gave them to my husband and told him to take them for his allergies. This is why we have MRSA killing people.

  12. wezelboy says:

    I am one of those people buying foreign drugs, mainly because the FDA has its head up its ass and won’t approve the drug I need for what I need it for. This drug is OTC in Europe.

    Getting a prescription, especially for “off-label” use is an expensive hassle when you have shitty insurance like most people do.

  13. Yogambo says:

    Having lived abroad for some time, I was amazed how prescription drugs were available without a prescription. You could walk into the corner pharmacy, tell the guy what you wanted or even solicit them for advice! It did strike me as dangerous and ripe for abuse. But… there’s little to no abuse that I saw or became aware of, despite the common sense.

    Upon arriving here, the wife needed birth control pills, which we’d gotten by just dropping by the local and picking up — for cheap — with no muss or fuss. Initially, we hadn’t started working and didn’t have insurance. When we tried to schedule an appointment with an old family doctor we were told they wouldn’t see us without insurance!

    So, we would have been screwed. Can’t get to see a doc, can’t PAY them, can’t get a prescription. We contemplated going to the free clinic, as at least we would achieved part of our goal.

    Soon after we were hired, got our insurance, went to see another doctor, PAID a $20 co-pay to see them and hear them say “here’s this little piece of paper you’ve been after for three months.” That allowed us the privilege of going to the pharmacy and paying the $12 co-pay for the prescription.

    When abroad, we didn’t need to see the doc, didn’t pay the $20 for that privilege and then the exact same branded drug costs us $8. This system is FUBAR!

  14. wring says:

    no fucking shit. to get a prescription, u need to have insurance OR $200 for a visit.

  15. When I was in law school a certain number of students were buying either antidepressants or antianxiety medicines from carribean pharmacies without a prescription and self-dosing. Because if you seek treatment for mental illness, most states make you report that on your bar application.

    The state bars don’t CARE if you’re mentally ill, but there’s still stigma, so students would avoid seeing doctors for serious mental illnesses and self-treat.

    I could never decide if I thought it was better or worse for their bodies than self-treating with copious amounts of alcohol. Of course self-treatment with alcohol doesn’t involve illegal importation.

  16. scarletvirtue says:

    I get my Zyrtec (allergy med) from Canada – because what I’d pay for it through my insurance ($50/month, since it’s non-preferred) is more than what I can pay for a 90 day supply of generic Zyrtec.

    Oddly enough, it was my allergist that recommended that I get the meds from a Canadian pharmacy.

  17. myfourkids says:

    I buy medication from foreign pharmacies all the time. I buy diet pills. Why? I cant’t find a doctor that will prescribe them without an initial cost of $395. for their weightloss “plan”. Then i have to go back to the doctor every week, blah blah, blah. I can buy the pills online and save the headache.

  18. MarcoVincenzo says:

    I have insurance and I can see a doctor for a $15 co-pay, but I still buy most of my prescription medications from online pharmacies outside of the US. I don’t see any reason to take a half day off work to spend an actual 15 minutes with a doctor, in order to get another prescription for something I’ve had before. Sorry, but the whole process is a racket to benefit the medical and pharmaceutical industry.

    We need to eliminate the FDA and eliminate the government requirement for prescriptions. Let people be responsible for the medication they take–and if they don’t know what they should be taking then, and only then, should they see a doctor.

  19. LittleBlackFly says:

    @scarletvirtue: Ditto. Except it’s actually over the counter in Canada and I get a years supply of the generic (need it daily) for ~90 CND when I go home for Christmas. Couldn’t believe the not only was it prescription, but that there was no generic version when I moved to the States.

  20. scarletvirtue says:

    @Klassy: That’s how I get it too – I should’ve clarified that! :-)

    I have to take 2 tabs a day (severe allergies), so that 90 day supply is more like a 45 day supply! Regardless, it’s still a lot cheaper, which works for me.

    When I’ve gotten the brand name (Reactine) – I call it the “Pink Floyd drug” because of the prism design on the box!

    The drug companies in the States are insane – I’ve seen them re-name and slightly re-formulate existing drugs, just to keep the deathgrip on the patents. When the generics and/or OTC come around, it makes life so much easier – even if it takes forever for it to happen.

  21. Maulleigh says:

    I get my drugs from wwww.genericchemist.com and have never had a problem.

  22. nardo218 says:

    I wonder if I can get decent cold medicine from Canada…

    BTW, isn’t it likely that people are selling them either for what they are (“Getcher brand name antidepressant here!”) or to make interesting illegal drugs?

  23. Major-General says:

    Ahh, the evil pharmaceutical companies. Spending $800 million to bring a drug to market, and with only one major market in which to recoup the costs.

    And that’s not counting the costs of the ones that don’t make it.

  24. jsande1 says:

    After working for Pharmaceutical companies my entire life, I still cannot support the current US prescription process. As several folks pointed out, why is it that third world countries (and others) trust their citizens to have enough intelligence to either work with the pharmacist, consult online or have experience with their own history so that they can purchase the drugs they need? Are we really just dumb Americans?

    I pick up several different antibiotics and several other products each time I leave the US, and I primarily use reputable sources on the internet to help me determine which drug is required when – as well as the risks. When in doubt, I go to a doctor and pay too much, but that is the same policy one would have without the prescription requirement.

  25. ChristineS says:

    There are many reasons why people buy prescription medications online. Sometimes people really know what medication do they need and skip doctor visit to save time and money. Although self-medicating has certain risks, doctor’s prescription also is not a 100% guarantee that you won’t have drug-related problems.
    BTW, here is a helpful guide for safe medications use:
    [www.emedexpert.com]

  26. grider says:

    If this statement holds true, what is the harm of buying generics for personal use? (From the net).

    In The U.S.A FDA says, residents may import medications from outside U.S.A, provided the product is for personal use, is not for resale and does not exceed a 3-month supply. The intended use of the product is appropriately identified. The patient seeking to import the product affirms in writing that it is for the patient’s own use. A prescription (or copy), label from original medicine container, or list from your pharmacy satisfies this requirement. The patient needs to provide the name of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for his or her treatment with the product.

  27. grider says:

    In The U.S.A FDA says, residents may import medications from outside U.S.A, provided the product is for personal use, is not for resale and does not exceed a 3-month supply. The intended use of the product is appropriately identified. The patient seeking to import the product affirms in writing that it is for the patient’s own use. A prescription (or copy), label from original medicine container, or list from your pharmacy satisfies this requirement. The patient needs to provide the name of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for his or her treatment with the product.

    IF this holds true then what is the harm in buying generics from overseas?

  28. grider says:

    And if this holds true for USA, what kind of laws are in place for UK? Can an individual order generic drugs for personal use?