The leadership of leading International Prescription Service Provider (IPSP) CANARX recently answered a few questions about how the company started, what they do to protect patients and why they believe their services are better than that of potential competitors. CANARX, founded in 2002, was the first IPSP to serve self-funded group health plans in the U.S. Since then, they’ve kept safety on the forefront and built a reputation as one of the most transparent and trustworthy companies out there.

What was the genesis of CANARX and how does that influence the company today?

CANARX began with the founders filling prescriptions for a friend, Betty, in Phoenix, Arizona. They would bring her prescriptions back to Canada, to be filled at much lower cost than available to her locally. This quickly expanded to include others in the condominium community. The model quickly evolved into a full-scale business and expanded to include senior bus trips from Michigan as well as a website. Based on the founder’s extensive knowledge of group benefits, the idea came to work with self-funded group health plans in the United States to develop a voluntary program to help reduce costs for employers and their employees. This effectively creates a win/win program with 20 years of success. When you look at where this really originated, being that you’re helping friends with medications that they need to survive, of course safety is going to be the top concern.

How has the company grown over the past 20 years?

We have come to fill a role as a trusted advisor. We have consulted for public policy makers and private businesses on other international programs and the safest, most effective method of personal importation. We have continued to grow and be the leader in the market, while never going against our safety protocols.

In today’s increasingly crowded marketplace, what makes CANARX different?

CANARX pioneered and perfected the very first international personal importation program for a self-insured group health plan in the United States. Safety standards were developed by an experienced team of health care professionals working along with representatives from state and local governments. These safety standards became the gold standard in the industry that has been often copied, but never duplicated. CANARX is the only IPSP to implement, launch and administer multiple municipal and state health programs.

We’re fully insured for both product and professional liability. Each plan holder enjoys the added protection of being covered under the umbrella of this policy. In an age of identity theft, CANARX has also taken the step to secure cyber insurance coverage to fully protect our members’ privacy.

We customize formularies to offer the  highest-quality medications at the lowest possible cost. We’re highly monitored by health care professionals based on safety, savings and availability. We do not supply generic medications, controlled substances, acute medications, precursor meds, temperature-sensitive injectables or those that are subject to the REMS program as outlined by the FDA. We only offer brand-name, prescription medications.

CANARX developed and owns innovative software that tracks the member’s medical profile from enrollment to fulfillment. This software incorporates a drug utilization review based on the First Databank of California database and automatically creates a cue to alert the CANARX team when a member is due for a refill, when a prescription has run out and when the patient requires contact. CANARX also owns and operates its own highly-trained, dedicated call center.

What are the most common misunderstandings about CANARX products and services?

  • We are not a pharmacy. We provide a service connecting members to licensed and inspected pharmacies in one of three Tier 1 Countries.
  • The medications on our formulary are the Tier 1 equivalent approved for distribution in the U.S. They are often coming out of the same production facility, the same production line. It’s just a matter of who applied the rubber stamp (FDA versus Health Canada, for example). If a medication hasn’t been approved in the U.S., it’s not on our formulary.
  • Safety procedures are in place to prevent the distribution of expired or short-dated medications. A CANARX representative will reach out to the patient to verify how much they have on hand and if they’re OK with anything dated within six months. If there’s any conflict, we just don’t send it.
  • We don’t actually handle pills. They’re sent in the manufacturer’s original, sealed packaging to ensure patients are personally importing exactly what has been prescribed.

How do your safety protocols address these concerns?

Each protocol addresses an individual concern. We adjust our program on an ongoing basis. We always err on the side of caution.

For example, there was a recall in Canada for pharmacies to return unsold stock of an inhaler due to possible device failure. Although the level of recall did not extend to previously filled prescriptions, we proactively contacted everyone that had received the inhaler through our program to let them know and offer a free replacement. We did this at our own cost despite there being no official requirement.

Others are concerned with filling prescriptions remotely without local pharmacist support. We also believe that local pharmacist support for new-to-you medications is invaluable. This is why we do not send any supply to a patient that has not previously used the medication for a period of at least 30 days with positive result.

How have CANARX safety protocols evolved over time?

Safety protocols have evolved to reflect changes in the market, input of members, regulators, state and local government officials as well as insurance. For example, the state of Illinois was heavily involved in the formation of our core safety procedures and even had state inspectors visit with providers on-site.

How does CANARX adapt these protocols to stay ahead?

We have regular independent reviews by third parties as well as internal process reviews. We observe the market, anticipate changes and, most importantly, look to the feedback from members and plan holders to help guide us.

What are some questions to ask when considering an International Prescription Service Provider?

We recommend anyone exploring personal importation ask …

  • Are they insured and am I covered under this policy?
  • How long have they been in operation?
  • Can they provide a list of references?
  • What medications are offered, what countries are they provided from, how are they packaged and how are they shipped?
  • Are there any additional administrative costs associated with the service?
  • What is the average savings provided to the plan and member?
  • What types of reporting are available?
  • Are their claims acceptable for stop-loss purposes?
  • Are they HIPAA compliant?
  • Is their program subject to ERISA?
  • Do they offer incentives?
  • Is their program customizable to domestic plan edits?
  • How long have they been in business for and has the company followed the same program overview and safety protocols throughout?
  • Do they put members’ well-being ahead of profits?

What makes CANARX the right choice?

As the leader in the industry, we believe we offer the safest and most effective method for personal importation to self-funded group health plans. Our comprehensive, one-of-a-kind insurance policy adds an extra layer of support and protection to all of our members. Since the start of our company, our core values have never wavered. Safety is our top priority in offering the highest level of service to all of our plan holders and plan members.

We don’t charge administrative fees or PMPM fees and offer the highest-quality medications at the lowest possible cost. It’s truly a win/win for both the plan and the member.