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Will Foreign Pharmacies Impact Drug Sales in US Stores?


As the American population ages and the necessity for prescription medications increases, many Americans are looking to mail order and are using online pharmacies as a source for obtaining their medications more inexpensively. While many “brick-and-mortar” pharmacies offer an online portal for ordering prescription refills as well as other items, many foreign online pharmacies are becoming popular destinations for customers seeking low-cost medication. In spite of the discouragement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Americans are gravitating towards Mexican and Canadian Pharmacy options for their medication needs for a variety of reasons.

Appeal of foreign pharmacies

The main reason that foreign pharmacies have become so appealing and popular is the fact that they offer prescription medication for a significantly lower cost than the same medications would be in the United States. Canada, the UK and countries in the European Union have capped the drug companies, placing a maximum on how much they can charge for prescriptions, ensuring that the price will never exceed that cap. In contrast, the United States government puts no price controls on the pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to compete openly. Add in the costs of developing, researching, manufacturing and even advertising medications and it is understandable that the price would be significantly higher for a prescription brand name drug.

In addition, lawsuits involving prescription medications are far more common in the US than they are in other countries; this also contributes to the high cost of prescription medications.

Safety concerns

Buying any product from a foreign country will raises questions about safety and quality, and prescription medications are no exception. It is impossible to tell whether a medication is safe or not by simply looking at it, however, researching the pharmacy itself is an important step in ensuring personal safety when purchasing prescriptions from them.

Finding a legitimate online pharmacy is actually quite simple. First of all, a legitimate online pharmacy will have a verifiable physical address and phone number, as well as a license number that is displayed on their site for all customers to see. A valid, physician-signed prescription will also be required by a legitimate online pharmacy and most will work closely with a customer’s physician or healthcare provider when a medication or refill is ordered.

Effect of foreign pharmacies on the US drug store industry

The greatest concern that many US pharmacies have regarding the surge in the use of foreign and online pharmacies is the loss of potential business. The state of Maine is taking steps to formally legalize the importation of foreign drugs despite the protest of many pharmaceutical companies and retail pharmacies. If Maine is successful, the belief is that many other states may take similar steps to open up foreign drug opportunities to residents, thereby increasing competition and potentially negatively affecting drugstores based in the US. However, generic medications are usually priced lower in the United States than in foreign countries, so drugstores may choose to refocus their prescription medication angle on this market where they will have more of an advantage competitively.  In addition, lifestyle and wellness products and services are becoming more marketable, allowing drugstores to offer something that online pharmacies, both foreign and domestic, simply cannot.

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