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America’s struggles with racial disparities in access to health care run deep and are extensively reported in relation to prescription drug access.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the United States, where drug prices are the highest in the world, costs, access barriers, and challenges to prescription adherence can be a death sentence, and far too often are for minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

In a 2018 Public Health Post article, Gilbert Benavidez and Austin Frakt contend that though cost is a major factor, disparities are not simply a function of socioeconomic status—the story is more complicated. They report that costs, lack of insurance, and implicit racial bias in prescribing practices all play a role.

  • For millions in the country, the cost of prescription drugs is an ever-growing barrier to proper disease treatment. This is most often the case for minority groups, who have long experienced disproportionally adverse health access and outcomes.

  • Affording medications is even harder for those without coverage. Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reduced the number of uninsured Americans, over 28 million remain without insurance. More than half (55%) of uninsured Americans under the age of 65 are people of color. For those with no insurance, paying retail prices for medications is often financially impossible.

  • Race can have an implicit effect on the prescribing practices of providers.

In a 2019 study published by Plus One, research by Zhiwen Xie, Patricia St. Clair, Dana P. Goldman, and Geoffrey Joyce showed that racial and ethnic disparities in medication adherence are mitigated, but persist even after controlling for detailed socioeconomic measures.

  • Minorities typically have a higher prevalence of chronic disease, worse access to medical care, and greater financial constraints [12–15].

  • Chronic medications must be taken as prescribed to be effective, yet poor adherence is endemic [1–10].

  • Suboptimal medication-taking behavior, consisting of poor adherence among existing users and discontinuation of therapy, is particularly acute in racial/ethnic minority populations.

The Prescription

At a time when America desperately needs to lower racial and economic barriers and to build unity, online prescription importation lowers costs, reduces barriers, increases medication adherence, and has been a life-saving service to millions of Americans.

  • Americans who import prescription drugs report an average savings of $245 a month ($2,940/yr).

  • Americans find 50% to 88% more savings at licensed online Canadian pharmacies compared to coupon and discount drug prices at GoodRx, Amazon, and leading U.S. pharmacy competitors.

  • Major benefits of personal importation including cost savings, ease of online ordering, ease of prescription refills, and at-home mail delivery have all been reported to increase prescription medication adherence rates.

  • In a new CPPI survey completed in December 2020, 99 percent of American’s who import prescription drugs say they would recommend it to friends and family.

“Five years ago, my income was so low that I received money back from the government. Paying U.S. prescription prices even for just my most important medications Orphenadrine and Estradot would definitely have strapped me financially. Now, they are not covered by Medicare. Getting my prescriptions at affordable prices from Canadian pharmacies has been a lifeline,” says Arlene Grimes of California.

While a growing number of Americans avail themselves of personal prescription importation, far more could benefit from it. Write to the new 117th Congress and asking them to expand access to personal prescription importation.

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