A couple of websites do the vetting for you, using these and other criteria.
The Canadian International Pharmacy Association runs a site (cipa.com) that allows you to compare drug prices among dozens of pharmacies whose legitimacy it has certified. Its customers "tend to be people who live in the U.S., are on fixed income or low income and can't afford the medications where they live," says Tim Smith, the association's general manager.
To buy through one of CIPA's certified pharmacies, you must have a valid prescription and submit a medical profile to help guard against adverse drug interactions. The site also maintains a list of "rogue" online pharmacies.
PharmacyChecker.com offers a similar service, linking customers to a broader range of online pharmacies abroad and in the U.S.
Levitt, its president, notes that while importing drugs from overseas is a "critical lifeline" for many people, it is still possible to buy many medications affordably in the U.S. He and others suggest you take the time to comparison shop in the U.S. because prices can vary significantly from pharmacy to pharmacy.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based GoodRx tracks prescription drug prices at over 70,000 pharmacies across the U.S. and offers coupons.
Levitt also recommends asking your doctor if there is a viable therapeutic alternative or a lower-cost generic drug. Recent research from PharmacyChecker shows that 88% of the most commonly prescribed generic drugs can be purchased more cheaply in the U.S. than from Canadian pharmacies.
"Many times there is no reason to go international," Levitt says. "The drug will actually be cheaper here."
This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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