Online pharmacies?
November 15, 2004 5:23 PM   Subscribe

OnlinePharmacyFilter: My doctor has prescribed a drug that my insurance will not cover. I can purchase a one-month supply of the drug for full-price from my local pharmacy for about $300. It seems I can purchase a generic version of the drug online for about $100 (without a prescription, even). [MI]

So, do any of you MeFites have experience ordering legitimate medication (i.e. not V!@gRa) through online pharmacies? How might I determine the legal status of such an action? (I live in the US.) What assurance might I have regarding the quality and safety of the medication? As one might imagine, it's not easy to come up with a google query on this question with an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio....
posted by funkbrain to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd check with one of the states that's linking to legit pharmacies online (NY, I think WI, MN, maybe OR or WA?).
posted by gramcracker at 5:27 PM on November 15, 2004

I've ordered medication from New Zealand in the past (some meds that were prescription-only in the US and OTC in NZ) and been quite satisfied with the results.

In theory, the medications could be confiscated by US customs, but it's unlikely that you would face any legal repercussions beyond that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:38 PM on November 15, 2004

When I didn't have insurance, I ordered Telfast, the trade name for Allegra-like medicine in New Zealand, multiple times from two different online pharmacies. It is not a prescription drug there, so the legality was about as safe as I could get without ordering aspirin. Although I must say: sometimes the packages came from Fiji, so there was definitely something weird going on.

The two places I ordered from were Pharmacy Discounter and Online Pharmacy (NZ). However, it has been more than two years and those companies could have changed hands or otherwise stopped being safe to order from.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2004

what is the drug, if you don't mind me asking?
posted by docpops at 6:29 PM on November 15, 2004

Have you spoken to your doc about this? Often there's an equivalent-in-class that your insurance will cover. If not, your doc will tell you so.

It's quite a common request for a doc to think about this type of issue; can't imagine yours would be surprised or put out at all.

I realize I'm answering a question you didn't ask; my apologies if it's unhelpful.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2004

You can also have the doc petition your insurance to cover that drug if it's Medically Necessary(tm) ... the process should be in your Member Guide. I've done that before and it's worked for me when I wanted to get Allegra because it works without knocking me for a serious loop, and my insurance would only cover OTC Claritin.
posted by SpecialK at 7:11 PM on November 15, 2004

Response by poster: I have mentioned this to my doctor (did so today). He has petitioned my insurance to cover the drug... twice. It's clear that my insurance won't budge; I'm now investigating "plan B".

Actually, my doc could (or would) give me no recommendation on this question... he said he had no experience with ordering drugs online.

The drug is Provigil (modafinil). My doc is prescribing it for depression; as I understand it, that's an "off-label" prescription... which, I guess, is why my insurer is balking.

I checked those kiwi pharmacies... no dice.

Thanks for the comments so far. I'm starting to think I'll have to close my eyes and shell out the $300/month.
posted by funkbrain at 8:26 PM on November 15, 2004 has a feature up right now about some guy taking Provigil for pleasure. You can read about his experience with it (mixed) although I wouldn't put too much stock in it, since depression meds work differently on people who aren't actually depressed. Anyhow, the article mentions that Provigil's popularity is "skyrocketing" which might mean that lots of shady online retailers will jump on board to sell it alongside v1agra and v1codin. Just a thought.
posted by bonheur at 8:54 PM on November 15, 2004

Why isn't your doctor prescribing a standard SSRI?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on November 15, 2004

Isn't there a generic available from your local pharmacy?

Typically, if a drug isn't covered by your insurance, the message that comes back will be either "Drug Not Covered" (as in, not covered period), or "PA [Prior Authorization] Required", in which case your doctor needs to authorize it.

Since this is an SSRI, the insurance company probably wants you to try a less expensive (i.e. more common) drug in the class first. If that doesn't work for you, then they may pay for the more specialized drug.
posted by neckro23 at 9:23 PM on November 15, 2004

Isn't there a generic available from your local pharmacy?

Provigil is still under patent.
posted by kindall at 9:28 PM on November 15, 2004

Once my coverage ran out so I tried ordering prescription drugs online - both to save on the cost of the doctor's visit (I'd been on the same drug at the same dose for years so I didn't feel I needed a note from my mommy to get my medication) and the price of the drug (an SSRI, coincidentally).

I ordered once from NZ - no prescription necessary and a great price - and got completely ripped-off. I'm not sure what they sent me but I'm sure the drug in question doesn't have a minty-fresh odor. I'm guessing they were repackaging breath mints or antacids or something. All attempts to recoup struck out.

I had a better experience with a US-based online pharmacy (whose name escapes me. If you're interested I probably could dig up the name from e-mail archives). At this one you have an "online consultation" (really just a simple html form - what's the condition being treated, how long have you had it, etc.) with an actual doctor. The doctor then "writes" the prescription, you are notified so that you can enter CC info. The order is filled and shipped. I received the medication within a couple of days. It looked like a standard pharmacy phial with prescribing doctor's name and everything. The price was marginally less than going the standard route but I also saved the cost and bother of a doctor's visit so it was well worth it.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:41 PM on November 15, 2004

I have successfully ordered a particular Indian generic drug from India multiple times. The generic was made by Cipla, a modern, major manufacturer in India and packaged in blister packs. The blister packs and pills are quite specific in design and I imagine it would be a money-losing proposition to counterfeit them... a better way would be to sell the actual generics at a markup to foreign buyers. The medication performed exactly as the U.S. version had, so I have every reason to believe that it was all legitimate.

I realize this is extremely sketchy and while it worked for me, I would not recommend it to others. I really may have just been lucky. Modafinil is such a new, expensive, and popular drug that I would be wary... there is a lot more incentive to build a scam around it.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:59 PM on November 15, 2004

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