Rx Rip-Off

Three years ago today, I had a doctor’s appointment. My physician gave me a prescription for three — just 3! — tablets of a medication not covered by my Medicare Advantage plan.

“They’re quite expensive,” he warned, “so you will probably want to shop around for them.”

As his nurse reviewed the doctor’s notes with me before leaving, she bent over and whispered, “Look online, hon. I’m sure you can find these drugs for far less from Canada … or elsewhere.”

“Are you kidding?” I joked. All I needed was more inbox spam for male enhancers.

So, I called every pharmacy in the area. The mail order division of my Medicare provider. And U.S. online drug stores.

Bottom line:

TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SIX DOLLARS ($286) FOR THREE TABLETS!!!!!

Then, I went back online and looked at Canadian pharmacies. A legal, licensed, accredited Canadian “dispensary” requiring a bona fide prescription would charge me US $19.80 + $9.00 shipping for eight — not three — of the same brand tablets. But, I’d have to have my doc rewrite the ‘script for eight tablets instead of three.

Living in Portugal and Spain now, pills and pharmaceuticals cost a whole lot less–23 Euros for six “comprimidos” of the same drug from a different supplier.

Portugal and Spain subsidize their pharmaceuticals and set the price for them.

I still can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with this picture: $19.80 for eight of the same, non-branded tablets from a Canadian pharmacy vs. $286.00 for three from a U.S. drug store and about US $27 to purchase them here in Portugal. Per pill, that’s @ $95 (USA) vs. $3.60 (Canada) vs. $4.50 (my Portuguese pharmacy).

That’s not right. It’s wrong. Very wrong!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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