A local pharmacy is using Canadian guidelines to sell prescription drugs at cheaper rates, an effort aimed at treating low-income patients without medical insurance.
The business, Canadian RX Depot Inc., advertises savings of 20 to 90 percent on prescription drugs.
The Portales Medical Center has started placing orders through a Canadian RX ordering branch out of Denton, Texas, which in turn places orders from pharmacies in Winnipeg, Manitoba or other pharmacies in Canada.
The Federal Drug Administration recently lifted a ban on receiving drugs from other countries. However, insurance companies will not cover the costs of prescription purchases outside of America.
“It is to help out only those that do not have insurance,” Portales Medical Center Manager Monique McLean said. “We do not want to be viewed as competition for the local pharmacies. The local pharmacies have been real supportive. We will be visiting with each of them to explain the process. If patients already purchase their prescription drugs through one of the local pharmacies, we are going to direct them to the local pharmacy.”
Some medications purchased through Canadian RX are almost one-third the price of medications bought at American pharmacies.
For example, some arthritis medications sold for $3 through a pharmacy, can be ordered for $1.30 through Canadian RX, McLean said.
Prescription orders can be placed from the Portales Medical Center and online at www.canadaRXdepot.net.
Even with the cheaper prices, McLean said the medical center is not trying to make money, but only trying to help low-income patients.
“We’re not going to advertise the purchasing of the prescription drugs through us,” McLean said. “We will only place orders when patients are seen at our clinic. We’ve only placed a couple of orders so far.”
Local pharmacy owners have mixed feelings about the local Canadian RX storefront.
“I’m sure it will have an effect on us,” C J’s Pill Box pharmacist Dick Hoverland said. “The manufacturers sell to Canadian companies cheaper than to us. They sell to the United States pharmacies at a higher price because it is a stronger economy than Canada’s.”
Canadian prescription drug companies sell cheaper drugs because the Canadian government limits the amount charged by pharmaceutical manufacturers. The United States does not.
“I believe it has affected local pharmacies in New Mexico,” said Dale Tinker, the executive director of the New Mexico Pharmaceutical Association. “In the last 10 years we’ve probably lost over 100 pharmacies.”
But, B and J Drug pharmacist Walter Chambliss said he doesn’t feel threatened by the local Canadian RX storefront.
“I do not have any strong feelings against it,” said Chambliss, a pharmacist since 1958. “It’s generated to help those who can’t afford it (insurance) so I don’t know how much that’s going to hurt us.”
“There are safety concerns,” Chambliss said, because the drugs are not regulated in America. “The problem lies in the free trade regulation. You (local pharmacies) have to compete against the companies from other countries, which offer the prescription drugs at a lower price.”
Local pharmacies are often kept from ordering from companies such as Canadian RX Depot because of their ties to the state pharmacy association boards, managers at the local pharmacies said.
Many state pharmacy association boards have denounced the purchase of prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies because those drugs are not regulated in America.
“I believe the U.S. is paying for the research that the drug companies do,” Chambliss said. “I think that’s why manufactures charge us a higher price. I really don’t think that’s fair.”
Hoverland believes the issue runs deeper.
“I don’t know that Canadian companies are the problem,” Hoverland said. “I don’t believe that congress addresses the issue of medical costs (in America). They campaign against the rising cost of prescription drugs then when they get elected, it just goes to the wayside.”
Canadian RX has 42 stores nationwide.