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Buying Prescription Drugs Online: United States vs the Rest of the World

By uds uds | January 3, 2019

Buying Prescription Drugs Online: United States vs the Rest of the World - Universal Drugstore

Prescription medications in the US are much more expensive than in other developed nations. According to recent data, Americans spend twice as much on prescription drugs than consumers in other countries.

The high annual drug cost increases put a heavy financial burden on American consumers, who are often faced with the choice of paying for a life-saving medication or affording basic necessities.

Why Are Prescription Drugs so Expensive?

Due to multiple industry players and patients caught in the middle, there are many reasons why US drug prices are so expensive.

Unlike in other nations, the pharmaceutical market in the US is a free market. This means that no government-level authority regulates drug pricing, drug profitability, or drug cost-effectiveness. This absence is a major contributing factor toward unsustainable health care costs in the US.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the characteristics of American pharmaceutical legislation and regulation.


US Medication Regulations: Problems and Drivers

Brand-Name Drugs

Patents & market exclusivity: New brand-name drugs are granted patent and market exclusivity protection. During this period, drug manufacturers have total discretion in setting launch prices and annual increases.

Extended patent protections: Extended patents delay access to generic drugs and lead to increased brand-name drug prices (often on an annual basis).

Patent clustering: Some manufacturers develop a dense portfolio of patents to protect one drug over a long period of time.

Federal support for drug development: A large portion of pharmaceutical R&D is funded by the US government. However, when new drugs are developed by federal grants and licensed to drug manufacturers, these manufacturers still benefit from market-exclusivity and can set their own launch prices.

Brand-Name Orphan Drugs

Multiple orphan drug exclusivities: Under the Orphan Drug Act, manufacturers who have developed drugs for rare diseases or conditions receive a seven-year market-exclusivity period.

Repurposing of off-patent drugs: Already-existing drugs often obtain approval for orphan-drug indications. These are typically launched at a higher price for all indications.

Biologics and Biosimilars

Lack of price competition among biologics and biosimilars: Very few biosimilars have been developed due to the lack of a fully-developed regulatory framework.

Lack of regulatory guidance: Biosimilars face labeling issues, misuse of REMS, and patent challenges. These limit access to – or discourage manufacturers from – entering the market.

Discouraged use: Under certain state laws, biosimilar use is discouraged.

Generic Drugs

Lack of competition among generic drug manufacturers: In 2017, there were 182 off-patent drugs without any associated generics, and more than 500 patented drugs with only one marketed generic.

Market exits: Companies may withdraw from the market temporarily or permanently, which reduces market competition and causes significant price increases.

Mergers and acquisitions: Alternatively, a manufacturer may merge with/acquire other companies that make a specific drug, decreasing competition.

Blocking access to samples: Major brand-name manufacturers often block generic drug developers from obtaining samples needed to conduct bioequivalence studies (a key step in developing a generic drug). To tackle this issue, the FDA has created a list of drug manufacturers suspected of intentionally delaying generic drug competition. Encouraging the introduction of generics is essential to reducing drug costs.

Drug shortages: Supply disruptions can cause price spikes.

Other Problems and Drivers

Lack of price transparency: The pharmaceutical distribution system does not provide financial information to patients, providers, or payers about drug pricing and comparative effectiveness.

Restriction on price negotiation: Federal law restricts price negotiation for Medicaid and Medicare.


Finding the Lowest Prices: Costco, Walmart or Walgreens?

Prescription drug prices vary greatly between retailers, and some are exceptionally expensive.

The price of five commonly-prescribed drugs was compared among 150 pharmacies across the US.

The drugs included were the diabetes drug pioglitazone (Actos 30 mg), the painkiller celecoxib (Celebrex 200 mg), the antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta 20 mg), the cholesterol medication atorvastatin (Lipitor 20 mg), and clopidogrel (Plavix 75 mg), a blood thinner.

According to the investigation, a one-month supply of all five drugs cost a total of $105 at Costco, but $518 at Walmart, and $752 at Walgreens.

This price discrepancy was even more stunning at CVS and Rite Aid, where the same five drugs cost a total of $900.

Retailers such as Costco, HealthWarehouse.com, and Sam’s club were found to offer consistently lower prices.

Despite saving programs for out-of-pocket drug expenditures offered by many drugstores, drug costs remain substantially high and continue to put pressure on health-care budgets.

If you are looking for a reliable replacement pharmacy, visit Universal Drugstore and discover our competitive prices. In many cases, Universal Drugstore offers far lower prices than Costco, Walmart, and Walgreens.


US Drug Prices Compared to Other Countries

Data from the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP) 2015 Comparative Price Report shows a few examples of identical drugs that cost up to several times higher in the US, compared to the price in developed countries:

Buy Affordable Prescription Drugs from Universal Drugstore

Universal Drugstore is the best online Canadian pharmacy, offering great drug discounts and deliveries to North America within 2 to 3 weeks. It partners with licensed international pharmacies, ensuring drug supply continuity and medications which may be even cheaper than in Canada.


Why Are Americans Buying Drugs From Canadian Pharmacies?

For many years, Canadian pharmacies have been a life-saving option for Americans, due to prescription drug affordability. Unlike in the US, the Canadian government regulates the cost of brand-name drugs.
Therefore, many identical drugs are significantly cheaper in Canada and other countries that also negotiate pricing with drug manufacturers.

For decades, countless US citizens have crossed the Canadian border to obtain cheaper medications, but Universal Drugstore offers a far easier option including safe and affordable access to prescription drugs from Canada and other countries as well.

Besides the great discounts, online Canadian pharmacies offer fast, dependable delivery service, due to their close proximity.


Is it Legal to Buy Prescription Drugs Online?

Under certain circumstances, medication imports for personal use are allowed if the:


US Pharma Lobbying

Each year, pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars lobbying government officials on issues such as patent settlements, generic drug approvals, drug pricing, and drug importation.

In 2017, the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) – representing the country’s major pharmaceutical researchers and biotechnology companies – spent $25.4 million lobbying the US Congress alone.

Critics of lobbying posit that the pharmaceutical industry influences FDA decisions and federal drug policies to the benefit of drug manufacturers.


Can I Get My Prescription Filled Outside the US?


Getting prescription meds from Canada

For medications dispensed from Canada, a prescription issued by a Canadian practitioner is required.

Canadian online pharmacies typically request that the patient or prescribing doctor sends their prescription for review. This prescription is then reviewed by a Canadian prescriber. Further medical information may be requested during the approval process.

Getting prescription meds from Europe

In all European Union member countries, prescriptions are subject to the rules of the country where they are dispensed. This means that a pharmacist will apply national rules when dispensing your medicine.

Some medicines may not be authorised for sale nor available in another country, even within the EU.


What Are the Risks of Buying Drugs from Canada

Many online pharmacies claim to be licensed suppliers located in Canada yet do not have any licensed pharmacies or pharmacists within the country.

Fake drugs may contain inadequate/zero active ingredients, harmful ingredients, or are stored inappropriately. Therefore, before placing an order, it is essential that the online vendor is fully verified.

Universal Drugstore is the best choice for a safe online pharmacy. As a certified member of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA), it prioritizes patient safety.

Are Pharmacy Online Reviews Reliable?

Consumer pharmacy ratings and reviews can provide insight into the retailer’s reliability, as well as the drug quality and consumer services which are offered.

Signs of a safe, legal online pharmacy include:

Once the online pharmacy is identified as legitimate and safe, consumer ratings and reviews can be considered trustworthy.

Are Canadian Drugs the Same as in the US?

Although some medications in Canada may not be exactly the same as their American counterparts (e.g. different color), Canadian brand name medications may actually be produced by the same manufacturer as in the United States.

Buying Drugs Online: How to Get the Best Prices?

Once you have determined what your options are among generic, lower-tiered, or branded medications, these websites can help you determine their cost:

What’s the Difference Between Generic and Brand Name Drugs?

A generic drug is a “bioequivalent” of its brand-name counterpart.

Generic manufacturing is heavily-regulated, and companies are not required to repeat pre-clinical and clinical studies to prove the safety and efficacy of a drug.

A bulk of research shows that generics are just as safe and effective as the original medication. Cost is the main difference between the two drug versions. Choosing a generic brand will almost always save money while providing the same therapeutic effect.

Discounts, Deals, and Savings with Universal Drugstore

As a global online pharmacy leader, Universal Drugstore remains fully committed to providing significant drug discounts. We match the prices of our online pharmacy competitors to ensure that you receive the best price possible.

Universal Drugstore provides a wide selection of generic and brand name medications, at
prices up to 80% lower than your local pharmacy.

To find prices for your medications, use the search bar at the top of the page and type a brand name or generic medication. We’ll provide a complete list of all available drug options at the best online prices.


  1. Health at a Glance. OECD (2017). Accessed 22 Nov 2018
  2. Getting to the Root of High Prescription Drug Prices.The Commonwealth Fund (2017). Accessed 26 Nov 2017
  3. How to pay less for your meds. Consumer Reports (05 Apr 2018). Accessed 25 Nov 2018
  4. How the US Pays 3 Times More for Drugs. Scientific American (2018). Accessed 25 Nov 2018
  5. The High Cost of Prescription Drugs in the United States. JAMA (2016);316(8):858-871. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.11237. Accessed 25 Nov 2018 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2545691
  6. How do healthcare prices and use in the US compare to other countries? Health System Tracker (08 May 2018). Accessed 25 Nov 2018
  7. Shop Around for Lower Drug Prices. Consumer Reports (05 Apr 2018). Accessed 26 Nov 2018
  8. Imported Drugs Safety Concern. Fda.gov (2018). Accessed 26 Nov 2018
  9. Are drugs sold in Canada the exact same as drugs sold in the United States? PharmacyChecker.com (16 Nov 2017). Accessed 25 Nov 2017
  10. Do generic drugs compromise on quality? Harvard Medical School (Jan 2018). Accessed 26 Nov 2018

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