Why are drugs so much cheaper from Pharmacies in Canada?

Written by on November 6, 2013 in in the news, prescriptions with 2 Comments


The topic of ordering cheap prescriptions from Canada comes up every now and then on rosacea bulletin boards. The price difference over the border is enough to make anyone paying full price scream.

So what is the reason for this price difference, and is it worth trying to source prescriptions from a country that you don’t live in?

Why are Rosacea Prescriptions So Expensive?

If you are paying the full price for a prescription of Metrogel 1%, Oracea, Finacea or Mirvaso then you already know that the prices are almost unbelievable.

There are reports of a month of Oracea costing $300, Finacea over $200 a tube and Metrogel $300. Even worse, we know that Ziana, an acne treatment retails for $743 and Acanya for $426.

Cheaper in Canada

According to the author of this article Oracea capsules are available online from Canada for $2 a capsule instead of $10 per capsule.

Even $2 a capsule is expensive compared to 50mg of generic doxycycline which can be as low as 30 cents a capsule.

(One can indeed seriously ask the question Is Oracea different to 50mg a day of Doxycycline ?)

Cheap Drugs From Canada– Good Idea?

Staying with dermatoligic [sic] issues, rosacea can be cosmetically bothersome with redness, papules, acne-like pustules on the face and coarsening of the nose (rhinophyma.) Its cause is unknown and there is no really good treatment.

One approach has been to use an antibiotic called doxycycline taken orally in the usual “antibiotic” dose of 100mg. It seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect rather than an antibiotic effect in the skin and often can clear the face. It is a very inexpensive capsule at about 30 cents each. But it can also have an adverse effect on the bacteria in the gut and possibly lead to overgrowth of yeasts.

A new approach is a 40mg capsule branded as Oracea which is both regular doxycycline and a sustained release form so that the blood level stays low and relatively constant over the day; perhaps it will have less likelihood of adverse problems.

It has been tested and found to be reasonably effective for rosacea and hence approved for market by the FDA. But it is on patent and costs about $10 per dose or $300 per month– a drug that the patient will probably have to take forever to keep their face clear. That adds up – fast.

Instead one might consider using the standard 100mg doxycycline but only for a few days whenever a flare-up begins. Low cost and limited side effects, if any.

What about buying drugs from Canada? Same drug but at a better price. I checked PharmacyChecker.com and found the topical fluorouracil branded Efudex for $75 including $10 for shipping. That is a lot better than the generic price here of about $150 and way better than Efudex at about $300.

For the doxycycline, using the same web checker, I found a 50mg dosage (albeit not sustained release) that costs about $17 per month. Oracea 40 mg capsules can be found in Canada for about $2.00 each if you buy more than 50 at a time. Both are quite a difference from $3600 for a year’s supply.

But buyer beware. We have a very carefully monitored market in the United States through the FDA.

We benefit greatly from its regulations and its careful scrutiny of each new drug before it can be marketed. In the United States, the drug can be traced from the manufacturer to the distributor to the pharmacy to you so you can be certain it is the real thing. And companies that manufacture overseas must follow the same stringent requirements as in the USA in order to sell here.

The FDA’s concern is not to protect the drug companies profit from competition but to protect us (you and me) from the unscrupulous. The concern is that the drug bought from Canada (or elsewhere) may not actually be the drug it is said to be.

Witness the highly expensive drug Avastin used to treat certain cancers. A counterfeit was somehow entered onto distribution in the USA from somewhere else- except that it was not Avastin. It was not a drug at all. A lot of unsuspecting doctors and patients were duped. So it behooves us to carefully balance the pros and the cons.

So WHY do drugs cost less in Canada?

Continuing on from Cheap Drugs From Canada– Good Idea?

Why does it cost less in Canada or other countries for the same drug?

Because the other countries tell the drug company that it can only sell the drug at a set upper price limit.

If that limit is still within the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s marginal cost per unit of drug, then they will agree and sell at that level.

In America, we are effectively paying for the entire R&D cost of bringing a new medication to market along with the company’s marketing cost and still giving it a huge profit potential.

Rather than import the drug from Canada, we should just expect the company to sell here for the same price as there.

But they do not have to and so they do not.

Right now, Americans effectively pay for the R&D costs of new drugs while others get a discount because their governments insist. So should ours. It would bring the price down and negate the need to look to Canada or elsewhere.

[emphasis added]

So the answer is that drugs are very expensive in the US because the manufacturers can charge whatever they like.

Other countries like Australia have limits on what the government will list as subsidised drugs and so this means patients get the best possible deal from listed drugs.

Would you risk it?

Is the lure of cheaper prescriptions enough for you to consider the risk of an online pharmacy over the border?

Is there an alternative?

Is there some way to save money when attempting to treat your rosacea ? Well there may well be some corners you can cut. You could try making your own cleanser, asking for doctor’s samples, try generics or hunt for bargains. For more details see – Top 5 Cheap Rosacea Treatments

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About the Author

About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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2 Reader Comments

  1. robert says:

    You didn’t mention the cost we pay in the USA for friviolous lawsuits, and how that drives up the cost of drugs and everything else.

  2. Scarletnat says:

    I feel so bad for rosacea sufferes in the US 🙁 Here in Europe we get our meds for free, apart from an annual insurance fee (around 1400 euro’s these days) plus around 300 euro’s own benefit. A lot of money when you are never sick but worth it when you have a chronic illness. Its mandatory here however to have health insurance. It seems almost impossible to pay those type of US prices monthly as a patient it seems?

    My derm said with regards to Oracea/doxycycline, that taking 50 mg of Doxycyline works just as well as Oracea for rosacea in his experience. Doxy only costs a few euro’s per month here, Oracea a lot more.

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