According to a recent analysis, U.S. consumers, on average, would save 76 percent on the cost of brand-name medications made in America if they purchased from other countries instead of in the U.S.
A poll from Kaiser Permanente indicated that 19 million American adults import medications to save money – that’s 8 percent of the U.S. population. Most people are on fixed income or low income and cannot afford the medications where they live.
Countries with well-regulated pharmacies include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, much of Western Europe and Turkey.
Although people do not worry about the price, they have other concerns about the medications from other countries. Are these medications the same as the U.S. brand name products and are they FDA approved?
What Does “FDA Approved” Mean?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for labeling medications and supplements. Pharmaceutical companies seeking approval to sell a medication in the United States must complete a full application process.
Only the pharmacies located in the U.S. sell FDA approved medications.
However, the situation is similar in other countries. Every country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is the only authorized authority to license the medications that can be sold in that country.
Health Canada, as federal regulator, is responsible for assessing and monitoring the safety and efficacy of medications marketed in Canada. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the body responsible for ensuring that medications work and are acceptably safe. Their role is the same as the FDA in the US.
Medications can be produced by one of the main pharmaceutical manufacturers in one country and then could be distributed to the other countries. But the manufacturer has to apply to the MOH in each country to have the license to import & sell that medication in that country.
The medications you ordered from international online pharmacies, either brand name or generic products, should be approved by that country.
Same Ingredients, Same Original Manufacturer in Different Countries
Approved medications with the same active pharmaceutical ingredients by the same original manufacture but sold in different countries are often the exact same. Sometimes the brand name is the same and sometimes it is not.
Advair Diskus, approved by FDA in the U.S., original manufacturer is Glaxo Smith Kline, which sells the medication with the same ingredients just with different labels in Canada, UK, Turkey Australia, and New Zealand.
Same Ingredients, Different Manufacturers in Different Countries
The original manufacturer can also sell the patent rights to different companies in different countries. These products are considered as brand name medications.
Coumadin, a blood thinner approved by FDA and discontinued now in the U.S., original manufacturer was Bristol-Myers Squibb, who sold the patent right of Coumadin to the other manufacturers, Aspen in Australia and Zentiva in Turkey.
Aspen and Zentiva manufacture the brand Coumadin under license from Bristol Myers Squibb. They are not generic. We also call their warfarin brand Coumadin, although they are not identical as the U.S brand one, which is no longer available. They are considered interchangeable as they contain the same medicinal ingredient, warfarin Regardless of which brand they are using, patients should be getting regular INR levels done to ensure they are in the therapeutic range.
Difference Between Brand Name and Generic Products?
When a pharmaceutical manufacturer develops a new medication, it is protected under a patent, usually for 20 years. During this time, no other manufacturer is allowed to make or sell it. These are called brand name products.
A generic medication is a drug that contains the same active pharmaceutical ingredient as a name-brand but is not sold under a brand name.
Once the patent expires, that manufacturer or another manufacturer can make and test another version of the medication. After testing and the FDA (in the U.S) or other country’s ministry of health approval, the manufacturer can sell the medication as a generic version.
Cialis, approved by the FDA in the U.S and Health Canada in Canada, original manufacturer is Eli Lily. After patent expiration from 2017, the other company can manufacture tadalafil.
Generic medications use the same active ingredients as brand-name medicines and work the same way, so they have the same risks and benefits as the brand-name medicines.
Consumers usually can buy generic medication at a much lower price than brand-name one.
Where Can I Get Affordable and Safe Prescription Medication?
If you are planning to cross the border for your medications, or get them through an online pharmacy abroad, you should do a little vetting first. There are plenty of rogue operators, especially in the world of online pharmacies.
Before doing business with an online pharmacy, confirm it is licensed in its country of origin and that the country has strong pharmacy regulations.
There is a website that helps you with this by doing the vetting for you, by 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.
For example, CanadaOnlineHealth is the one that CIPA certified.
Cheapomeds contracts with government-licensed physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and Germany, to supply brand name and generic medications, packaged and sealed by the original or various generic manufacturers, for direct delivery to all participants
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this medical condition or process and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress, please contact emergency services (such as 911).