Since Bob has a Philippine prescription for doxazosin, in desperation, he decided to try a mail order pharmacy. This was really an experiment to see if a Philippine prescription would be honored, if the medications would make it through Philippine customs without excessive fees, whether they would actually arrive and whether the quality was acceptable.
We received notification that my order had been shipped on December 31. The charges appeared on our credit card shortly thereafter. Now to see if the medications would actually arrive, when would they arrive and by what carrier.
The medications arrived in two packages at the friendly, tiny post office at Tigbauan, Iloilo on January 26th. The prescription medications had been shipped from the U.K. by Royal Mail. The non-prescription low-dose aspirin was shipped as first class mail through the U.S. Postal Service. I had to pay P80 in customs duty, about $2.00. The medications themselves were labeled with a UK address but seem to be marketed by the U.K. branches of Indian drug companies Wockhardt and Medreich. This is not a special concern to me. There’s a good chance the generic drugs we buy in the Philippines have their origin in China or India. My genuine Pfizer Lipitor is made in Turkey.
There’s no escaping the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry. A recent New York Times article said, “More than 80 percent of the active ingredients for drugs sold in the United States are made abroad — mostly in plants in China and India that are rarely inspected by the F.D.A. Half of all medical devices sold in the United States are made abroad. Many kinds of antibiotics, steroids, cancer medicines and even aspirin are no longer produced in the United States, or in many cases anywhere in the Western world….Many popular over-the-counter medicines and vitamins are made almost entirely in Chinese plants that the F.D.A. has never inspected. Domestic suppliers often maintain that they test their imported ingredients rigorously, but such sampling is akin to testing a bucket of soil from a mountain, then declaring the entire mountain free of pollutants.” So the idea of avoiding foreign imports is a chimera. Mainly, I want to be sure that we are buying the genuine product of a reputable Indian pharmaceutical company.
If your have more than a casual interest in the globalization of drug manufacturing and what it means to consumers, see “Protecting Consumers from the Risks of Substandard and Counterfeit Drugs” by the Pew Charitable trust.
****THIS IS NEW ARTICLE YOU SHOULD READ ABOUT PRESCRIPTION DRUG QUALITY http://myphilippinelife.com/dirty-medicine-a-chilling-expose-on-an-indian-drug-giant-which-well-might-make-your-generic-lipitor/
http://www.legitscript.com is a website which evaluates online pharmacies. Since http://www.legitscript.com does not give its approval to any pharmacies outside of the U.S. and since U.S. pharmacies will not honor the prescriptions of Filipino physicians, http://www.legitscript.com is of limited value to those living outside of the U.S. That said, a search of http://www.legitscript.com produced quite unflattering comments about CanadaDrugs.com. As a foreign pharmacy, http://www.alldaychemist.com is unapproved but there is no derogatory comments. We’d be much happier if we could order from Costco or another U.S. based pharmacy but evidently we can’t do that because we need a prescription from a U.S. doctor. So, expats are pretty much consigned to the wild west world of online pharmacies. http://www.pharmacychecker.com/aboutop.asp#C6 gives some background information.
Many of the http://www.pharmacychecker.com/ listed online pharmacies say something vague about the origin of the generics they sell — something like “various generic suppliers”. Now we are buying almost all our medications from http://www.alldaychemist.com/. Many of the medications sold by http://www.alldaychemist.com/ are from the large Indian pharmas such as CIPLA and Intas. Generally we’d prefer to buy generics from one of the large Indian firms rather than a Philippine generic. We like the fact that the All Day Chemist website tells you who manufactures its drugs.
All Day Chemist does not accept credit cards. You have to pay through your bank account (ACH) or by check. We have placed two large orders with them. At first we were a bit dubious but now we are 100% satisfied and just hope they stay in business and figure out a way to accept credit cards. They cut our drug costs in half. The drugs were as advertised and fresh. Shipping to our small Philippine post office is quite fast, but expensive at $25. In one case they made the shipment even before they deposited our check. They seem like decent people. Drug costs in India are controlled by the government which seems intent on making sure drugs are affordable. All Day Chemist allows us to take advantage of those lo Indian prices while living in the Philippines.
So, the story seems to have a happy ending. We calculate that we can save about $800 per year buying two of my our medications by mail order. The others we will continue to buy at Mercury Drug. You really have to shop around. Some drugs such as Lipitor are quite inexpensive in the Philippines. You’d pay twice as much for it mail order. Figuring in shipping charges and duty, only some medications are cheaper through mail order. If you receive your shipment via PhilPost, you’ll have to make your own assessment of the reliability of you local post office. Ours has been excellent.
One final recommendation — have your medications shipped to the Philippines by the postal service, not one of the private carriers such as FedEx, DHL etc. That way you probably will be charged less duty. It’s my understanding that customs duties are levied by the local customs office if the package comes through PhilPost, the Philippine postal service. Shipments through the commercial carriers are processed by Philippine customs in Manila. I am not sure if that is correct but I have received multiple shipments and I’m much happier with regular mail shipments. My experience is that Manila customs is more aggressive, and in some cases unreasonable. One time they charged duty on my own forwarded mail! Also, if you use FedEx et al. you’ll likely also be charged for the services of a customs broker.