Archive for April, 2017

Earth Day is Gone But Proper Drug Disposal Is An Everyday Issue

Posted by on April 27th, 2017

Earth Day may be over but environmental conservation is an important topic no matter the time of year. While most environmental discussion these days seems to revolve around climate change, fossil fuels, and who has the facts right, there is another issue that we think is pretty important. The proper disposal of unused, expired, or no longer needed prescription drugs is getting more attention for very good reason.

We all know that dumping tons of oil or sewage in a body of water is bad. It kills aquatic life, destroys plants and ruin ecosystems. It also contaminates the water supply of any town that relies on that particular body of water. Yet every year people flush tons of prescription drugs down the toilet or simply throw them away. What do they do the environment? And how do they get there?

Flushing and throwing away drugs are not an ideal solution. The active ingredients and chemical compounds in medications can stay in the environment for a long time and be ingested by fish, animals, plants and even humans. Even if treated in a water treatment plant, there will still be some residual amount of chemicals left in the water. In fact drugs have even been found in trace amounts in the underground aquifers that supply 40#&37; of America’s water supply. It’s a problem not just confined to the US; Canada, Japan and other countries have also uncovered drugs in different water supplies in their countries. The effects may be already visible. Male fish in some places have become feminized, producing eggs. Changes have also been observed in zooplankton and earthworms.

Unfortunately research on this is as widespread as you might suspect. Modern regulations generally do not require the removal of prescription drugs from wastewater, thus most plants aren’t engineered to do that. Yet these are drugs designed to work on humans and animals in relatively low doses so it’s very likely the long term effects are just not known yet.

We do not need to know the long-term effects to surmise there is an environmental safety issue here. It’s not necessary to see widespread environmental degradation to start doing things right. The easiest way to prevent problems is to properly dispose of your prescription drugs. Prescription drug take back days are becoming more common across North America. They encourage people to turn in old, unused or unneeded drugs for proper disposal. They were initially designed to get people to turn in prescription opioids so they wouldn’t contribute to the ongoing opioid crisis. Further, more and more pharmacies are able to take in prescription drugs for disposal. If you have old, unused, or no longer needed prescription drugs, take advantage of a local take back day or visit a local pharmacy and have them properly disposed of. The environment will thank you.


Be a Banting

Posted by on April 12th, 2017

In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting, assisted by Charles Best, discovered insulin while working at the University of Toronto. Canadian research and innovation at a Canadian research university led to a treatment that has saved multiple millions of lives since its discovery. This discovery could have made Dr. Banting a very rich man. But he did his work for the benefit of humanity not profit. In 1923 Banting sold his US patent on insulin to the University of Toronto for $1. This allowed others to develop better formulations, and eventually lead to the synthetic insulins we benefit from today. If Banting were a pharma CEO or researcher today, he would be fired for doing what he did.

Would it make sense for Canada to say that American diabetics were “freeloading” off Canadian innovation and research? No it wouldn’t. It would be callous and over the top. Yet pharma is saying exactly that about Canada and the whole world. One pharma CEO recently said that Canadian drugs are cheaper than the US because Canada “freerides off American innovation.” He accused Canada of drug rationing because its health care system will not cover certain drugs. He suggested the US government should force Canada and other countries to allow high, US-style, drug prices via tough, pro-pharma free trade deals. There are problems with this sentiment.

1. Canadian drug prices are the second highest in the world next only to the US.
2. The Canadian government only regulates the prices of branded drugs. Prices are set at the median of prices in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. By taking US drug prices into account shifts Canadian prices higher than they otherwise might be.
3. Lower Canadian drug prices can be attributed to mass negotiation between health systems and pharmaceutical companies. It’s worth noting pharmaceutical companies actively participate in these negotiations.
4. Health systems may not see a benefit in paying substantially higher prices for newer, but only marginally better, drugs right away. They may wait a few years to determine if they’re worth the expense.
5. It is anti-free trade. Free trade would mean personal prescription importation would be open to everyone. What pharma wants is managed trade where they gain an advantage and use the power of the US government to brow beat other countries into paying more for drugs.

Takeaways

Sentiments like this beg the question; can pharma rely on its own innovation to continue growing? Or has innovation slowed to a point where only arbitrary price hikes can increase profit margins? Right now, it seems it’s the latter. They believe Canadians don’t pay “their fair share” for innovation. What other industry adopts this way of thinking? Does Ford, Chrysler or GM use this argument to charge higher prices for cars in the US than Canada? Absolutely not. They’re more influenced by currency fluctuations, competition and consumer demand than pharma is. Pharma is one of the most coddled industries in the world. They enjoy patent protections and pricing power that other companies can only dream of. But it isn’t enough…it’s never enough. This is why ill Americans need to have access to personal importation. Pharma doesn’t see them as sick people who need accessible treatments; they see them as dollar signs. Americans deserve better.

Banting was a visionary who imagined an accessible and effective treatment for a disease which killed far too many before their time. Big pharma companies took his discovery, improved on it but, now, have monetized it to the extent that insulin is extremely expensive and nearly out of reach for many. Canadians, and everyone else for that matter, do benefit from pharma innovation and they pay for it too. What Pharma would prefer not to do is negotiate with buyers or have to prove their products are worth their price tags (like every other product category).
Americans are not freeloaders off of Canadian innovation, neither are Canadians freeloaders off of American innovation. Pharma’s price gouging distorts the market so any good analysis is difficult to do. If you’re fed up with pharma’s excuses and high prices, join the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation and/or contact your congressman and senator and tell them to support the personal importation bills that are before congress right now!


Gold and Drug Prices

Posted by on April 12th, 2017

Harvoni®, the block buster drug that could help eliminate the scourge of Hepatitis C, is extremely expensive

The US drug pricing website www.goodrx.com lists the cash price of a three month course of treatment at $92,999-$100,000. That’s staggering, and here’s why…

The Golden Ratio

Harvoni® is taken once per day over the course of three months (length of treatment can vary but three is the average). Most people will need at least 84 tablets to complete their treatment.

Stay with me on this:

Harvoni® therefore costs $1107.13/tablet ($92,999 ÷ 84 = $1107.13)…

The average weight of pharmaceutical tablet is around 0.6 grams…

The price of gold per gram is $40.39/gram or $24.23/0.6 grams…

Therefore one tablet of Harvoni® is nearly 46 times more expensive than the same amount of pure gold. To put it another way, the price of Harvoni® exceeds the price of gold by over 4400%

You could buy roughly 2.3 kilograms (5 lbs) of gold for the cash price of a three month course of treatment with Harvoni®

Impact

This means that a lifesaving treatment like Harvoni® could be out of reach for many people. It’s incredibly high price tag means that insurers and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will put restrictions on when it can be used. They may not cover it altogether. For Medicare recipients the high cost of drugs like this pushes them into the donut hole quickly; forcing them to have to spend more of their limited incomes on prescription drugs. It means less money for other necessities like food, rent or even other drugs.

We know drugs are expensive. The point of this exercise was to give you an idea of how incredibly high drug prices have become. When it is cheaper to purchase a large quantity of gold than a three month supply of medication…there is a problem. Many people with good insurance plans would never pay this much for their drugs out of pocket. The reality is different for lower income people, seniors and people without insurance. Manufacturer sponsored programs do hit all the demographics in needs, many slip through the cracks. It’s those people who make use of services like those offered by Canada Drugs. The price of gold is a common feature on stock tickers on TV and the internet, maybe the price of pharmaceuticals ought to be listed there too.

If you’re having a difficult time affording your prescriptions drugs, or just want to know how our prices can change your costs, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your needs and how we can help meet them. If you’re just plain fed up with the high cost of prescription drugs, you can also join the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation. They’re working with people across America to get the message to Washington decision makers: people are fed up and want lower drug prices.