Saving on prescription drugs?

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GDen
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 703
   Posted 6/12/2009 10:00 AM (GMT -7)   
With my insurance right now, prescriptions count toward the deductible and coinsurance cap. For those in a similar boat, I'm curious what you do to reduce the costs of prescription drugs. Right now, all I need is Asacol and occasional prednisone (the latter is $4 to $10 at any local chain pharmacy).

For Asacol I order from an online pharmacy in Canada. I used PharmacyChecker.com to find one that looked good. Asacol is generic in Canada and it costs me about $850 for a year's supply vs. around $3,200 or higher in the US. The first bottle of 500 pills was apparently manufactured by novopharm, one of Canada's largest generic pharmaceutical companies. I've read more than a few news stories warning about getting drugs from Canada because the FDA can't ensure their quality, but I think the FDA's mostly just trying to discourage people. I took the pills to my GI and he thought they should be fine and I guess they are because I didn't have a flare for about two years. Canadians will probably laugh at being concerned about buying drugs from their country! I haven't even looked into getting drugs from Mexico, which I'd be much more concerned about.

I recently reordered another refill from the same Canadian pharmacy, but this time for 1000 pills (biggest discount). This time, they came from India and are labeled as "mesacol", manufactured in India by "sun pharmaceutical industries"--which appears to be a large multinational pharmaceutical company. I'll take these to my GI as well as see what he thinks. I don't think there's anything to worry about with these pills either; India seems to have quality health care, for those that can afford it (which is substantially cheaper for foreigners). A couple of annoying things about this order is that the Canadian pharmacy split the order into 6 different packages to get around the FDA's limit of allowing only 90-day or less prescriptions. The pills are also individually packaged which will be a minor daily annoyance popping them out of the foil.

On my previous prescription, it arrived with FDA stickers and notices indicating that customs had opened it for inspection and had allowed it through this time but that future shipments might be confiscated. I asked the Canadian pharmacy about this and they said it rarely happens and if so they'd just send a replacement order.

Unless I get better (and costlier) insurance, or incur additional costs (like Remicade), this seems to be the cheapest solution for me. I've inquired with a lot of US pharmacies and checked out various discount programs, but none even come close to being as cheap. It's really not much of a hassle--online ordering is easy, they call to confirm the order, and my doctor faxes them a prescription (with multiple refills). I'm sure there are some who won't like this as it undercuts US drug companies and pharmacies, and while I greatly admire US drug companies for their products, as a consumer I have to do what's best for my finances, especially with a long-term condition.

So, that's what I do. I'd love to hear others' experiences and especially recommendations: favorite online pharmacies (if that's okay here), discount programs, etc. I think Walmart and other stores and even insurance companies have mail-order pharmacies, but I haven't yet looked into those. Asacol's patent apparently expires in 2013 and then hopefully generics will be available in the US.

Zanne
Veteran Member


Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 3763
   Posted 6/12/2009 10:13 AM (GMT -7)   
Can you get a Flexible Spending Account? It makes the money you spend on health related items non taxable, so depending on your tax bracket.... The catch is that any money left at the end of the year get forfeited so you need to plan wisely so that you only put as much as you need or just a little less. My year runs from Nov. 1 to Oct 31 and I ran out of my FSA money at the end of May this year. I could have planned a bit better but I had one prescription I didn't plan on that was about $400. But you can use the FSA for co-pays and OTC too. It helps
Suzanne

CD 20 years officially, 30 unofficially. 3 resections '93, '95 '97
Managing with strict low residue diet, keeping symptoms to a minimum. All test show small amount of ulceration, still have occasional blockages. But still have a great time with my 2 daughters and husband!


Prednisone, 6MP,Prevacid, B12 shots, Bentyl, Xifaxan.....


GDen
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 703
   Posted 6/12/2009 10:21 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm actually considering getting an HSA account. I'm not up-to-speed on them yet, but I believe the money in them isn't forfeited every year, unlike FSA's.

I also forgot to mention that my GI usually has some 60 pill Asacol freebie cards on hand. That's a pretty short supply for me, but every bit helps, and I can probably spread them around at different pharmacies (I think they're only good once at each pharmacy).

I also recently found out (thanks to this forum!) that P&G offers 360 days of free Asacol to those who qualify:
www.pgpharma.com/patient_assistance.shtml

Rider Fan
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 1445
   Posted 6/12/2009 11:24 AM (GMT -7)   
Interesting post. Partial disclosure, I'm from Canada. Firstly, I woudn't take pills from India as I've heard horror stories. I won't go into details because well I just can't, but just becuase it says that company on the box doesn't mean it's from that company. I'm glad that they're able to help you out as I agree that the cost of your Asacol is rediculous, but I hold internet pharmacists in pretty low regard. I mean, they gave you drugs from India becuase it's the cheapest source, bottom line.

I'm not sure that you'll find the price of Asacol dropping much once it goes generic in the USA. Also, the reason it's cheaper in Canada isn't just that it's generic, but that the government buys drugs in bulk from pharmaceutical companies and therefore negotiates huge volume disounts. I don't expect this to be done in the USA anytime soon as the mere suggestion would cause the drug lobby on K street in DC to go ballistic.

Great topic though, I hope people are able to post and help you out.

Mike
32 y/o male. Dx'ed in 1999. No surgeries.

Current meds: Humira 2/27/09. 8mg prednisone. Udo's Choice Probiotics (30 billion). Can't tolerate any iron supplements or infusions.

Tried SCD, didn't work, now avoiding gluten and dairy.


Go Saskatchewan Roughriders!


GDen
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 703
   Posted 6/12/2009 11:33 AM (GMT -7)   
Rider Fan said...
Interesting post. Partial disclosure, I'm from Canada. Firstly, I woudn't take pills from India as I've heard horror stories. I won't go into details because well I just can't, but just becuase it says that company on the box doesn't mean it's from that company. I'm glad that they're able to help you out as I agree that the cost of your Asacol is rediculous, but I hold internet pharmacists in pretty low regard. I mean, they gave you drugs from India becuase it's the cheapest source, bottom line.

It's of mild concern to me because:

- The online pharmacy is one of the most highly rated on pharmacychecker.com, both by PC and consumers.
- It's a licensed pharmacy in Canada with an actual bricks-and-mortar store.

Cheap doesn't necessarily equate to suspect to me. After all, Walmart's pharmacy is cheaper than Walgreen's I've found. I really doubt the online pharmacy would jeopardize their ratings and therefore their business by using questionable sources. I have far more confidence in pharmacychecker.com and Canada's pharmacist licensing than anecdotal evidence.

Rider Fan
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 1445
   Posted 6/12/2009 11:44 AM (GMT -7)   
If you have any confidence in canada's self-regulating pharmacist licensing board that's a problem right there. I agree that cheap doesn't necessarily mean bad, I'm just saying there is a difference between Novopharm and "sun pharmaceutical industries" (if that's where they're even from). Bricks and mortar give assurance of nothing. Like I said, I trust no pharmacy that buys drugs from India and sells them to Americans as 'canadian drugs'. I know the how these pharmacies operate, but I'm sorry I can't be more specific.

Let me be clear I totally understand your situation, I'm not saying I wouldn't consider doing the same thing in your shoes. But I don't think I would knowing what I do, that's all.
32 y/o male. Dx'ed in 1999. No surgeries.

Current meds: Humira 2/27/09. 8mg prednisone. Udo's Choice Probiotics (30 billion). Can't tolerate any iron supplements or infusions.

Tried SCD, didn't work, now avoiding gluten and dairy.


Go Saskatchewan Roughriders!


jhicks
Regular Member


Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 177
   Posted 6/12/2009 2:43 PM (GMT -7)   
Can you please be more specific about what you "know?"

FitzyK23
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 4219
   Posted 6/14/2009 1:54 PM (GMT -7)   
Rider - like Hicks... I'm curious what you are eluding too... I don't understand why you can't share some of your horror stories, just changing people's names and stuff to protect anonymity. You don't have to name any companies or anything either. Just x bought this from y and z happened.
27 Year old married female law student (last year!!). Diagnosed w/ CD 4 years ago, IBS for over 10 years before that, which was probably the CD. I am sort of lactose intollerant too but can handle anything cultured and do well w/ lactose pills and lactaid. For crohns I am currently on Pentasa 4 pills/4x day and hysociamine prn. I also have bad acid reflux and have been on PPI's since age 13. I have been through prilosec, prevacid, and nexium. Currently I am on Protonix in the morning and Zantac at night.  I take xanax prn for situational anxiety (aka no easy bathroom access). 

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