FDA: Canada Drugs Not Necessarily Cheaper

January 20, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says Americans looking to save money on prescription medications should look no further than generic versions offered domestically.

While Canadian price controls can mean slashing US name-brand prescriptions in half, generic version in the United States cost much less than their brand-name counterparts and the US generics market is considered the world’s most competitive, says FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan. Thus, McClellan says Americans have a chance to purchase their prescription medicines cheaper and with lower risk than buying imported varieties, according to an Associated Press report.

The FDA’s contention is based on price data collected by the medical research company IMS Health of seven drugs whose generic versions are top-selling treatments for chronic disease:

  • Prozac
  • Lopressor
  • Prinivil
  • Vasotec
  • Xanax
  • Klonopin
  • Glucophage.

The study measured average price per milligram, not what the patient pays per bottle, which can vary in dose and pill number. Comparing brand name and generic versions in Canada, the US generics proved significantly cheaper for all but Glucophage, the study concluded.

In fact, when shipping costs are added to the total, whoever ordered drugs from Canada spent about a third more than he would have at a local drugstore, McGinnis added.

The FDA’s latest findings adds more fuel to the fire the agency has been fanning to dissuade consumers from purchasing prescription medications from Canada. Previously, the FDA pointed to results from sting operations that showed medications were mishandled or mislabeled when being delivered from Canadian drugstores that fall outside of the FDA’s cloak of influence (See FDA Stings Springfield’s Canadian Drug Supplier ).

Yet, the warnings do little to deter state and local governments that see the potential for big savings in offering a Canadian drug reimportation plan to employees and retirees. In asking for the federal government’s blessing of a Illinois state plan, governor Rod Blagojevich says his state stands to saveup to $90.7 million a year on prescription medications (See Illinois Gov Wants Feds to Bless Canadian Drug Reimport Program ). Springfield, Massachusetts, which already has a plan in place, says its annual savings could be $4 million to $9 million (See Springfield, Mass. Pushes Canadian Drug Order Program ).