2005-04-07 / Savvy Senior


Dear Savvy Senior,

I’m 61-years-old and I’ve reached my boiling point. I refuse to pay these ridiculous prices for my prescription medications. I’m now looking into buying my drugs from Canada over the Internet to save some money but I have a few questions. What I’d like to know is, how safe is it, how much can I save, how do I go about it, and will it get me into any trouble? I can’t see paying U.S. prices anymore if I can save my hard-earned money by going north of the border.

Canadian Bound

Dear Bound,

The rising cost of prescription drugs in the United States has already prompted nearly two million Americans to buy their drugs from Canada - and who can blame them? The drugs are safe and the savings can be huge. Here’s what you should know.

The reason prescription drugs cost less in Canada than in the U.S. is because Canada, like most developed countries, has price controls to keep the drug prices down, whereas the U.S. does not. Savings will vary depending on the drug. However, you can expect to save between 30 and 80 percent, even after shipping charges, which will cost you around $10.

Is it legal?

According to federal law, it’s illegal to import prescription drugs from any foreign country, but the law is not enforced. The FDA and U.S. Customs Department have made it clear they will not take action against individuals who import small quantities (no more than a 90-day supply) of prescription drugs for their own use. This applies to drugs sent through the mail or driven across the border.

Savvy Note: U.S. government officials have been applying recent pressure to the Canadian government to limit or cut drug sales to U.S. citizens in the future. Stay tuned!

Is it Safe?

The FDA claims that imported drugs that are not subject to FDA oversight are not safe because they could be outdated, contaminated or counterfeit. But the fact is that Canada, like the U.S., has very strict laws governing pharmacies. Therefore, Canadian drugs are as safe as they are here in the U.S. In fact, there has never been a documented death or illness caused by an unsafe drug sent to an American from a Canadian pharmacy. And, there are at least nine U.S. states that have recently launched Web sites to help their residents buy affordable drugs from - where else - Canada.

Pharmacy Shopping

With so many Canadian pharmacy Web sites and mail-order companies online today, the choices can be overwhelming. To help you find a licensed, reputable Canadian pharmacy and avoid those risky Web sites, here are two excellent resources to visit:

• Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). A professional organization that ensures ethical standards of practice with its members. Visit www.ciparx.com.

• PharmacyChecker.com: Helps consumers find the lowest drug prices from licensed, qualified and reputable Canadian, U.S. and International online and mail-order pharmacies. Visit www.pharmacychecker.com.

How to Buy

Buying prescription drugs from Canada either by phone or online is very easy. Once you select a pharmacy, they will take you through their ordering process that will require you to fax or mail in a copy of your original prescription that must be written by a licensed U.S. physician. Once the prescription is received, it is reviewed and approved by a Canadian doctor. Some doctors may even call you directly if they have questions about your medical condition or other drugs you’re taking. Payment is typically done with a credit card and you should receive your order within a week or two. Note that Canadian pharmacies will not mail controlled substances or medications that require refrigeration.

Savvy Resource

Smart Seniors Guide: Provides free user-friendly information and resources on purchasing drugs online from Canadian pharmacies. Visit www.smartseniorsguide.com.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org.

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