Prescription Drug Price Paradox: Cost Analysis of Canadian Online Pharmacies versus US Medicare Beneficiaries for the Top 100 Drugs

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Clinical Drug Investigation

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© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG. Background and objectives: Despite the introduction of Medicare Part D (MPD) and 2012 Affordable Care Act (ACA), patients have a cost burden due to increases in drug prices. To overcome cost barriers, some patients purchase their medications from Canadian online pharmacies as Canadian prescription drug prices are believed to be lower than US prescription drug prices. The objective of this study was to determine which top 100 Medicare drugs can be imported to the USA legally, and to determine which type of prescription drug would be more beneficial to be purchased from Canadian online pharmacies. Moreover, we also deemed it important to compare MPD beneficiary annual expenses with expenses patients would have when obtaining their prescriptions from Canadian online pharmacies. Methods: We conducted a cost analysis from a patient perspective. A list of the top 100 Medicare drugs was compiled and information on drug prices was collected from three Canadian online pharmacies and four MPD plans in Virginia. The annual cost of each Medicare drug and percent change between Canadian online pharmacies and MPD were compared. Results: A total of 78 drugs from the top 100 Medicare drugs were included in the final analysis. Seventy-six prescription drugs (97.4%) that could be purchased from Canadian online pharmacies showed a significantly lower average drug price percent change of −72.71% (P < 0.0001). The heart health/blood pressure subgroup had the highest number of drugs that could be purchased from Canadian online pharmacies. Conclusion: The majority of prescription drugs can be purchased at lower prices from Canadian online pharmacies when compared to Medicare beneficiaries’ potential expenses. Purchasing medications from Canadian online pharmacies may be a viable option to address cost barriers.