May 17, 2011

As a senior with Parkinson's tottering on the brink of the Medicare Donut Hole, I'm taking a second look at the Canadian online pharmacy option

In an earlier posting, I cautioned about the use of online Canadian pharmacies because many of them that show up on Google searches are bogus.  The one that usually appears first is reputed to be run by a Russian mafia mob. See:

However, I’m now taking a closer look at these pharmacies because my high-priced Azilect for Parkinson’s will soon push me into Medicare’s Donut Hole.

If any of you have found ways of dealing with the high cost of Azilect or other pricey meds, I'd love to hear from you. But here's what I'm considering:

The Donut Hole
Here’s a refresher on the Donut Hole: it begins when your total retail drug costs (not just what you paid) reach $2840. Last year, once you hit that amount, you had to pay the full cost of your prescription meds until your “true out of pocket” (or TrOOP) costs exceeded $4550. The $4550 does not include the portion of your prescription expenses paid by the insurance carrier or your monthly Medicare Part D plan premiums; TrOOP only includes the amount you actually spent yourself.

In 2011, anyone reaching the Donut Hole will receive a 50%  discount on brand name drugs and a 7% discount on all generic medications.

My 2011 Drug Costs
I’ve signed up for AARP’s MedicareRX Preferred with a monthly premium of $39.60. Premium payments do not count toward the total retail cost used for figuring the Donut Hole.

As of today, my total drug cost for the year-to-date is $2431.07 – a little more than $400 short of the $2840 which will toss me into the Donut Hole.

Azilect is my main culprit. No generic is available. AARP estimates that if I continue to fill my Azilect prescriptions through the plan, my annual cost will be $4581! This is broken down as follows:
            $3017.34 paid by the plan
            $991.84 paid by me
            $582.34 paid by the drug company supplying Azilect (under the Health Care Reform Law, those of us falling into the Donut Hole in 2011 will get a 50% discount on the cost of brand-name drugs while in the Hole).

My other costly med is Lipitor which also does not have a generic (at least in the U.S. -- it apparently does in Canada, as we'll see later). AARP figures my annual cost for this drug at $1812 (plan paying $1271; me $540).

The Canadian Option
Since posting the caution about online Canadian pharmacies, I have learned of a reputable one – CanadianPharmacyMeds at:

I know one senior who has decided not to buy any Medicare prescription coverage. Instead, he buys generic prescriptions that are offered by Giant, CVS, etc. at $10 for 90 days. He checked on a Medicare prescription drug policy that had a monthly premium of about $40 (cf. my $39.60 with AARP) and it offered one of his generic prescriptions for $1.60 a tablet whereas without insurance he could get it from CVS for 11 cents!

He gets Lipitor and other high-priced brands from CanadianPharmacyMeds. He buys generic Lipitor in Canada (generic is not available in the U.S.) in 40mg tablets and cuts them in half for his 20mg prescription and in quarters for his wife’s 10mg prescription.

This savvy senior says he’s found that this online pharmacy has the best prices and very good service. The per-order shipping cost is, naturally, higher than you’d expect if ordering from a U.S. supplier. But they offer the option of signing up for lifetime shipping at a cost of $80.95 for a family and $60.95 for an individual.

I checked out Azilect and Lipitor at CanadianPharmacyMeds and this is what I found:

            Azilect:   If I divide the total cost given by AARP for staying with their plan ($4581) by 365 (I take one pill a day), the cost per pill is $12.55.  With CanadianPharmacyMeds, I could get a 60-day supply for $297 or $2.42 per pill.

            Lipitor: Dividing the AARP annual cost of $1812 by 365 results in a cost per pill of $4.96. The cost per pill with CanadianPharmacyMeds would be $1.

Totaling the two, AARP’s pills cost $17.51. CanadianPharmacyMeds cost $3.42.

Food for thougt, eh?


Suecarhart said...

I've often used and think it's wonderful.

John Schappi said...

Thanks, Susan.  Nice to know of another reliable Canadian online pharmacy.

Mike Gamble said...

I've used Canada Med Services for the past 2 years and recommend them to everyone I know. I've never been disappointed with their service. My wife and I use them for our 5 most expensive medications which have always been delivered on time. Their U.S. office is located only about 5 miles from me. But, you can handle everything through their toll-free number 1-877-917-3600. Feel free to call them to discuss your situation with no obligation. (I apologize if I sound like a commercial for them. I certainly don't intend for my recommendation to be that.)

Christina Gremore said...

I follow the blog at, and your post in today's email caught my eye.  I work for an online pharmacy that imports medications from India directly to American patients.  We have a generic version of Azilect, manufactured by Sun Pharmaceuticals, for $1.46 per pill.  Patent laws are different in India, so they've been able to manufacture generics of medications that aren't off-patent here in the US yet.  We're at and 1-800-400-0707.  Best of luck in facing the donut hole!

John Schappi said...

Thanks Mike -- When I first looked at the Canadian option a few months ago, I found it difficult to determine which of the online pharmacies were legit and which were scams.  Now just on the blog posting, there are 3 choices with people vouching for them.  That's great.

John Schappi said...

Yet another option!  Thanks Christina.

John Schappi said...

Re Lipitor -- Several friends sent me e-mails about recent reports that a generic version of Lipitor will be available within a month or two. However, my daughter's as always excellent research turned up a report indicating that generic Lipitor won't be on the market until December . . . if the generic drugmaker manages to clean up its facilities in India to FDA standards  and if appeals by competing drugmakers don't delay things even further. See: