We get a a lot of questions about Boehringer-Ingelheim and Pfizer’s blockbuster COPD drug Spiriva. We constantly get questions from COPD patients about “When will Spiriva go generic?”, “Why can’t I buy generic Spiriva yet?” and “Where can I find affordable, generic Spiriva? Well, unfortunately for COPD patients, the Spiriva patent does not expire until March 2014, which means we won’t have a generic counterpart for Spiriva in the U.S. until at least 2014.
Boehringer and Pfizer are due to lose patent protection on Spiriva in March of 2014, which is the earliest that a generic version of Spiriva will be available. Brand-name Spiriva generally retails for almost $1,000 for a 30 day supply, so it looks like Spiriva is going to be a big drain on the budget of many American COPD patients for a while longer, unfortunately.
However, if you do not live in the U.S. or you are willing to go outside the U.S., generic versions of Spiriva are available in other parts of the world i.e. Mexico, Europe, etc. and it’s often cheaper than what is available here. If you’re thinking of buying generic Spiriva from a foreign country, please remember a few things, though:
Can I Legally Bring Prescription Drugs from a Foreign Country into the U.S.?
No, sort of. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone to except a drug manufacturer to bring in prescription drugs from a foreign country, so no, technically it is illegal for you to buy your prescription drugs from a foreign country and bring them into the United States or have them shipped to you here. This includes drugs which are originally manufactured in the U.S. and exported to a foreign country which you may want to bring back to the U.S.
That being said, the FDA generally does not take action against individuals bringing in small amounts of prescription drugs (usually a 90-day supply) for their own personal use. Of course, enforcement is up to FDA discretion, but their guidelines prioritize going after drug rings rather than your average senior citizen ordering their monthly prescriptions from Canada.
Are the Drugs I buy in a Foreign Country Safe?
Well, maybe. It is hard to say whether the prescription drugs that you purchase will be up to standards comparable to those of the FDA, but if you are actually going across the border to a pharmacy in a foreign country, you should be able to do some research and ask the local pharmacist questions about the prescription drugs you are buying.
However, ordering prescription drugs online opens up a whole gaggle of other risks. First of all, anyone can set up a “pharmacy” online, and it can be extremely difficult to verify that you are actually receiving your prescription drugs from a legitimate source. Some online pharmacies have been known to ship substandard drugs, drugs that are past their expiration date, drugs that are too strong/weak, counterfeit drugs or drugs that have been sourced through countries without adequate safety standards.
In addition, prescription drug trade names are not standard across countries so there is a risk that by ordering Flomax (which in the U.S. is a medication for an enlarged prostate) you will receive the drug known as Flomax in Italy (which is an anti-inflammatory drug).
If you are interested in purchasing your prescription drugs through a foreign country, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:
• Avoid ordering drugs from an unlicensed pharmacy.
• Avoid ordering drugs which from a pharmacy that does not require a prescription.
• Do not import drug that are not approved by the U.S. FDA. That’s still illegal!
• Make sure that the pharmacy that you are ordering from is in a country with adequate safety standards. (Canada is a good bet.)
• Avoid online pharmacies that do not offer any company information, such as an address and telephone number where they can be reached.
• Insist on access to a licensed pharmacist in case you have any questions about your drugs.
• Ask that your order be shipped with the original manufacturer packaging; if that packaging is broken, don’t take it!
• Read and understand any website privacy and security policies. Don’t risk losing control of your credit card, health and other personal information.
Do you use Spiriva for your COPD? Tell us about it!
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