As the ongoing struggle of thousands of Americans faced with the reality of ever-increasing medical bills and the cost of prescription medication continues, there is an organization that is leading the way in helping break down the barriers of misinformation and sharing the truth about personal prescription importation. That organization is the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI).
CPPI is a national nonprofit patient advocacy organization whose main focus is to help Americans gain access to safe and affordable prescription medications from Canada. This medication is for personal use and often ordered online through trusted, certified sources like CanadaOnlineHealth.ca. We had the privilege of speaking with Tracy Cooley, Executive Director of CPPI.
COH: Tracy, what can you tell us about CPPI?
Tracy Cooley: CPPI is focused on what people can do NOW. Some people don’t have many options when faced with skyrocketing drug prices, and those prices are increasing almost daily. Being able to get those medications from Canada at a significantly reduced price is important. The reality is we have a community of people and this group was started because there is an urgent need. We are a source and someone people can turn to, to get advice about personal prescription importation. That’s why our community was formed.
COH: What is the biggest challenge that CPPI has faced?
Tracy Cooley: Our biggest challenge is the lack of awareness or amount of misinformation that is out there regarding ordering medications online. The reality is people are safely importing their daily medications at enormous savings. We do a survey every year and we’ve asked how long they have been ordering and how much they spend compared to how much they spend on their medication purchased in the United States. Year over year we are seeing that people are seeing personal prescription importation as safe. Many have done it for a long time and they’re saving money. Our community puts a human voice to the realities of importation and we promote what’s really going on. People are savvy. They know the industry, and they know that the purpose of all that misinformation is just to keep the prescription medication prices high. Now people are fighting against those high prices and are showing everyone that prescription importation is working and it is safe, legal, and possible.
COH: Tracy, you’ve heard the stories about people rationing medications due to the high costs. What would you say to those people?
Tracy Cooley: Based on the personal stories I’ve heard, they aren’t considering the consequences. They may think that skipping a pill here or there won’t make a difference in their health but then you hear heartbreaking stories of people facing the consequences of not taking their daily medications. Ordering your prescription medications online from a trusted Canadian pharmacy service can and is being done safely every day, by thousands of Americans. You have to do your homework, though. You need to know what to ask, what to look for, and make sure it is a trusted source. We help people understand the difference by offering guidelines and support.
COH: There are still people who don’t trust “medication by mail order. What can you say to these people to help them feel a little more at ease?
Tracy Cooley: You need to know the facts. It’s important to be cautious for a variety of reasons, especially when it comes to healthcare. CPPI has a list on our website that you should look for and you can learn more. Misinformation is a scare tactic that plays to people’s fears. There are guidelines you should follow when ordering your medications. For example, we believe you should not be shipping insulin due to temperature sensitivity. So get educated, because knowledge is power. Based on the savings we see, which can be anywhere from 50-80%, ordering prescription medication online from a trusted Canadian pharmacy service can be worth it. There are ways to do it. I would tell people to compare prices and see if it would make a difference to order prescription medication from Canada. The fact is the prices of lot of daily health maintenance medications are inflated. They can be made and sold for a lot less, but the list prices for drugs in the U.S. are higher than any other country in the world.
COH: What can you say to people who wonder if an online Canadian pharmacy service is safe?
Tracy Cooley: Do your homework. We found that the majority of the people who took our survey know what to look for when seeking a legitimate online pharmacy. Our opponents have suggested that people can’t judge the difference between a legitimate pharmacy and a rogue pharmacy. This is false. Our survey shows that people who are ordering their medications online are far more sophisticated. The situation in this country has forced people to make tough choices. Health harm or economic harm – both can be dangerous.
COH: Do you have any thoughts on Nancy Polosi’s plans for lowering prescription medication costs?
Tracy Cooley: The focus of CPPI is on importation and our other efforts. The states got very frustrated with the federal lack of action so we saw a lot of states stepping up with importation legislation and proposals to bring down prices. That gave a lot of traction to personal importation. Another thing that happened was the HHS coming out with a Safe Importation Action Plan.
Citing the safety of the Canadian drug distribution system, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently claimed: The federal government is “open for business” on proposals to allow Americans to import their medicines and issued a regulatory framework to permit legal importation. (Source: CPPI)
Norman ‘Ned’ Sharpless Acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Norman “Ned” Sharpless made clear that drug importation is a safe way for Americans to access affordable life-saving medicines: “We’ve been keenly focused on ensuring the importation approaches we’ve outlined pose no additional risk to the public’s health and safety.” (Source: CPPI)
COH: Tracy, what do the results from last year’s survey tell you?
Tracy Cooley: The results were consistent between our first year and the second year. We’re in our third year now. People taking the survey told us that 97% of them would recommend personal prescription importation to friends and family. That really gets to the heart of safety, when you consider they are telling their friends and family that it is okay to import. As for the other three percent, their answers were ambiguous or they didn’t quite understand the question. The amount they were all saving was another thing we saw. Last year about half said they were saving up to $199/month, but then if you just look at people spending over $300/month they were saving over $900/month. So if they are taking the medication for many years, the savings are significant and can be quite dramatic! It also really illustrates the price difference for prescription medications in the United States.
Over time we are seeing more and more people hearing about personal prescription importation from their doctors, nurses and pharmacists. I would hope that more doctors and pharmacists will offer this option and we will see this trend increase, once the government steps forward and confirms they can do this safely. If someone who is trusted say it’s okay then more people will be encouraged to do it or at least consider it as an option.
COH: What are you hoping to see from this year’s survey results?
Tracy Cooley: We mostly ask the same questions every year because we want to compare the answers we receive. We did add a question this year, though, which is how importation may affect their voting decision. That will be interesting to see. But we do know from other surveys that high drug prices are a huge priority in this country. We’re also looking for any changes, such as any increase in people hearing more from doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and any money saved or changes in spending. We watch drug prices continue to go up and see astonishing things like the President saying he is going to do something on drug prices, and the next week the prices go up yet again. So will this change? Anything we see from the survey responses that show the gaps widening or shrinking will be interesting.
COH: Tracy, how can people become more involved in the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation (CPPI)?
Tracy Cooley: On our home page we have a list of things people can do. The big thing is to stay in touch with us and subscribe to our email list. Writing letters to representatives in congress or being active and engaged in social media groups also helps. We are always looking for people to share their story with us and we do have several hundred people who have shared their story and told us about their experiences. We started asking people to share their thoughts on particular aspects of importation or drug prices and we always get responses to our questions every month. Any testimonials or insights are great, and taking our survey is important as well. We have a huge community but how many people import we really don’t know as we would need people to self-identify in order to track this information.
As you get more comfortable talking about personal prescription importation, and you’re hearing more about it, talk to your friends and family. We estimate, from survey results, a rough estimate of the money saved per month is more than $12 million dollars in total from our community . Once you realize there really is a safe way to get more affordable prescription medication, and you hear people you trust and elected leaders saying it can be done, the fear decreases. There’s not much concrete fact behind all the misinformation and the fear tactics. This is a public awareness battle and it’s about education. People deserve to know the truth.
We would like to thank Tracy Cooley and the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation for taking the time to share their ongoing story as they work towards helping Americans understand that personal prescription importation is a safe and affordable solution in the battle against the rising cost of prescription medication.
If you would like more information, please visit the CPPI website at https://personalimportation.org