Feature Archive

Medicines on the Cheap(er)

There are some lower-cost alternatives to imported drugs if you look for them.

By Neil Osterweil
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

On average, prescription drug costs in the U.S. are the highest in the world, but that doesn't mean that there aren't relative bargains to be had.

For example, a recent FDA study shows that generic drugs may in some cases be cheaper in the U.S. than either the brand-name or generic versions of the same drug sold in Canada. Generic drugs account for half of all prescription drugs sold in the U.S.

FDA analysts compared drug prices in the U.S. and Canada for seven best-selling generic prescription drugs for chronic conditions, such as anxiety disorders, seizure disorders, high blood pressure, depression, heart failure, and type 2 diabetes.

"For six of the seven drugs, the U.S. generics were priced lower than the brand-name versions in Canada. Five of the seven U.S. generic drugs were also cheaper than the Canadian generics. Of the remaining two U.S. generic drugs, one (enalapril for high blood pressure) was unavailable in Canada generically, and its Canadian brand-name version was more than five times the price of the U.S. generic equivalent. The other U.S. generic (metformin for type 2 diabetes) sold for less in Canada both as a generic and as a brand name," writes Linda Bren in the July-August 2004 issue of FDA Consumer magazine.