A Pennsylvania man drives 6 hours to Canada every 3 months to purchase medication for his son, who has a skin condition called alopecia areata. The medication restores Jon Yeagley's 20-year-old son's hair for $15,000 a year — about 30% of what it would cost the Yeagleys in the U.S., according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Here are 4 highlights from the report:
1. Alopecia areata occurs when a person's immune system attacks hair follicles, leading to sudden hair loss. Xeljanz, made by Pfizer and used to treat the disease, would cost the Yeagley family $50,000 a year, as the medication is not covered by their health insurance plan. So the family uses a $15,000 Pfizer rebate to get three months of the treatment in the U.S., and then travels to Canada three times a year to get the rest of the treatment, costing $3,700 for a three-month supply.
2. Trips like Mr. Yeagley's six-hour drive to a Walmart in Canada, which he arrives at by crossing the border at Buffalo, N.Y., are likely on the rise. In the past nine months, the FDA projects about 22,000 FDA-regulated products were intercepted at international mail facilities. That's compared to 13,500 interceptions in the previous 12 months, for an increase of 62%, according to data cited by the Inquirer.
3. While the FDA prohibits importing prescription medication from other countries to the U.S., the agency rarely enforces the rules for individuals bringing in small amounts of prescription medication for personal use, according to the report.
4. At one time Mr. Yeagley did buy Xeljanz for his son in the U.S. However, the drug — which is approved by the FDA to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but is believed by some researchers to be effective in stimulating hair growth — began to rise in price. To get a prescription across the border, Mr. Yeagley met with a Canadian physician via video consultation. The physician wrote a prescription that could be filled in Canada near the U.S. border.
To access the full report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, click here.