Last summer the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) launched a campaign to raise awareness of counterfeit drugs from foreign online pharmacies.  This year, they have drafted a letter to the U.S. Congress to encourage them to oppose proposals that allow American consumers to buy Health Canada-approved medication from “legitimate” Canadian online pharmacies. Buying medications from other countries has been an idea proposed to combat the high cost of prescriptions in the United States. Starting in 1999 politicians began filling buses with senior constituents and driving them to Canada, starting with then-Representative Bernie Sanders from Vermont. The seniors would travel with prescriptions written by American doctors; once in Canada, a Canadian doctor would rewrite the prescription and then have it filled at a Canadian

pharmacy at a fraction of the U.S. cost. One woman’s breast cancer drug, which cost $110 for a one-month supply in Maine, could be bought in Canada for only $12. Since the advent of the internet, the process to get prescriptions from across the Canadian border has become seemingly easier but is much more risky. A review of 11,000 websites selling prescription medications to U.S. consumers from 2016 found approximately 96% appear to be in conflict with U.S. law, of which 89% of those didn’t require a valid prescription. With so many illegitimate pharmacies, American consumers have a 65% likelihood of finding an illegal or unsafe site if they search for an online pharmacy. More than putting their health at risk by possibly receiving tainted…

This week, President Obama issued a proclamation marking this September 18-24 as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. Opioid abuse is a major health concern in the US; drug overdoses kill more Americans than traffic accidents, and more than 60% of these deaths involve opioids. As part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week federal agencies are expanding coverage for substance abuse treatment, establishing measures with the Chinese government to combat the supply of drugs coming into the US, increasing patient limit for practitioners prescribing medication-assisted treatment, and support educational and telemedicine programs that expand access to healthcare and treatment.   A large part of spreading awareness of opioid abuse is to relieve the stigma surrounding those suffering from addiction. The feelings of

disgrace and negative self-worth from society’s attitude and misconceptions about addicts can dissuade those in need from seeking treatment.  Last year the local Gloucester, MA police department started a program to help addicts that has since been adopted by over a hundred other departments in 28 states. In July 2015, Gloucester PD launched the Angel Initiative that promises to not charge addicts who voluntarily surrender drugs or paraphernelia but instead gets them started on a fast-tracked process towards detox and recovery. Since its inception, the Angel Initiative has helped over 450 people get treatment for addiction with no arrests while maintaining dignity of those who need help. It also led to the creation of the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) to help promote recovery and…

In previous blog posts, we have explored the risks of online pharmacies and the increased risks faced by the elderly. This is largely related to Medicare/Medicaid and the growing number of people who are covered by it. Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day, and not every treatment is covered by Medicare. This can lead senior Americans to look elsewhere for affordable medications, including potentially fraudulent online pharmacies. This year, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is launching a campaign to raise awareness. A recent review of over 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online to US consumers found nearly 96% noncompliant with US laws and as much as 50% of the medicines sold online are fake. Counterfeit medicines contain little to no active ingredients and

could contain dangerous poisons including floor wax, mercury, concrete, chalk, boric acid, road tar, paint or anti-freeze. Interpol estimates that counterfeit drugs are responsible for up to a million annual deaths worldwide.   Lower prices and the convenience of online shopping are major factors driving consumers to the internet for their medications, making older Americans targets for fraudulent drug sellers offering “too good to be true” discounts.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these counterfeit networks make billions of dollars each year but taking advantage of unknowing buyers online.  More than one’s health, one could put their financial and personal information at risk when submitting them to potentially criminal organizations.   There are several things to watch out for when looking for an online…

Since 1999, October is Health Literacy Month.  This week is also National Health Education Week.  Health literacy is defined as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Being able to disseminate health information allows people to navigate the healthcare system, keep track of their medical history, competently engage in self-care, and understand probability of health risks.   Health literacy is the main form of defense against misinformation prevalent in our society. Knowledge of the facts is key to combat the influence of those who would fly in the face of medical and scientific studies on subjects such as vaccinations or family planning services.  Dangerous pseudoscience can be avoided, saving individuals money

and suffering at the hands of those who either don’t know or don’t care.  Despite this, only 12% of adults have “Proficient” health literacy according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. This means nearly nine out of ten American adults may lack the knowledge necessary to manage their health and prevent disease. Populations most likely to experience low health literacy are the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, people with less than a high school-equivalent education, people with low-income, non-native English speakers, and individuals with compromised health status.   The primary responsibility of improving health literacy lies with health officials and the healthcare and public health systems.  When faced with one’s own health or the health of a loved one, a…

We have had various blog posts about the importance of medication adherence. The subject remains important as researchers find 20-30% of prescriptions are never filled and half of all people do not follow their drug instructions.  With a wide variety of factors contributing to patients not following through a treatment as directed, it can have a serious impact on one’s health and finances.   People have many reasons for medication non-adherence. Confusion can be a factor, whether in relation to multiple prescriptions or unclear doctor’s orders.  Other patients don’t take medicine to avoid side effects. Cost is an obvious factor for those unable to afford their prescriptions. Not following drug regimens can result in needless hospitalizations and emergency room visits, which can cost much more than the skipped medication.

Research shows as much as $289 billion is spent on avoidable hospital trips annually for people who don’t follow their prescription regimens. It is estimated that as many people die from medication non-adherence as from strokes each year.   Some organizations have devised different methods to combat patients’ non-compliance.  The University of Pennsylvania has given some patients electronic pill bottles that light up and beep when a dose is missed. If the light and beep continue to be ignored, a relative or the patient’s doctor will be notified.  To further motivate people to take their medications, following the directions and the pill bottle’s alerts enter the patient into small lotteries that offer $5 to $50.  A project in Hawaii connects doctors…