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A long-distance pharmacy

Posted By Kelly Hartog On August 21, 2005 @ 3:00 pm In | No Comments

Nathan Jacobson, founder of MagenDavidMeds.com, says that as long as medication prices in the U.S. remain unregulated, customers will seek pharmaceuticals abroad. Israel, he says, can provide them safely and efficiently.As pharmaceutical prices within the United States continue to climb, many North Americans are turning to foreign countries to purchase their prescription medications at more affordable prices.

Some physically cross the border to buy them in Canada, while others are looking further afield to purchase their medications from online pharmacies.

Based at the Weizmann Science Park in Rehovot, MagenDavidMeds is providing Israeli medications at prices up to 70% lower than in the US, which does not regulate pharmaceutical pricing.

The company, which bears no relation to Israel’s ambulance rescue service Magen David Adom, has been in operation for almost two years, and is the first Israeli-based online pharmacy network to provide prescription drugs to US residents.

It is the brainchild of 50-year-old entrepreneur Nathan Jacobson, who holds joint Israeli/Canadian citizenship. According to Jacobson, by the end of its first year in operation, MagenDavidMeds was receiving around 400 orders per day.

“I’d love to claim I was the person who came up with the idea of online pharmacies but that was started in Canada,” Jacobson told ISRAEL21c. “But I’m close to some of the people who were involved with online meds in Canada. We took the Canadian model and replicated it.”

In reality, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. To set up MagenDavidMeds, Jacobson retained an Israeli lawyer and a doctor and spent six months researching not only whether it was economically feasible, but whether it could also be done out of Israel legally. After the research was completed, the plan was presented to health minister Danny Naveh. “We got his support and then created an alliance with the Association of Independent Pharmacists of Israel and got them on board.”

And MagenDavidMeds.com was born.

Customers can either order their prescriptions online or by fax by simply typing in the name and dosage of their drug, attaching the prescription from their physician, filling in a customer agreement form and customs declaration and paying either by electronic check or credit card. Orders are processed within 72 hours, and the medications arrive on the customers’ doorstep within 2-3 weeks. It’s that simple.

This leads to the question why other companies haven’t jumped on the Israeli medication bandwagon.

“Money,” responds Jacobson. “So far we don’t have any other competition from Israel, because most people don’t have the money to do this. It’s a heavy investment. And it’s all self-funded.” But it’s an investment, he says, that is well worth both his money and his effort.

“I love Israel and I can’t say that in strong enough words,” says Jacobson, who had a Jewish day school education in Canada. “I grew up living, eating, breathing, Israel.”

So great was his love, that as soon as he turned 18, he moved to Israel just so that he could join the Israeli Army. His stay was cut short when he had to return to Canada after he completed his army service because his father was very ill, and he remained. Yet to this day, he still retains strong ties to the country, including owning a home in Tel Aviv.

“I sit on the board of the Tel Aviv Foundation and was recently approached to join the board of the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba,” he says.

It’s this personal connection to Israel that makes MagenDavidMeds’ mission two-fold; not only to provide affordable prescription drugs, but also to support the country.

Two percent of all gross sales at MagenDavidMeds are donated to the Israel non-profit charity Aleh Negev, which provides medical and rehabilitative care for severely disabled children. And MagenDavidMeds also helps independent pharmacists in Israel by helping them do business.

“They’re being beaten up by large chains, and the local neighborhood pharmacies are being wiped out,” says Jacobson.

While MagenDavidMeds is marketed heavily towards the Jewish community, particularly those who want kosher medications, or simply wish to support Israel, the network also has non-Jewish purchasers.

Look through the Internet and you’ll discover what appear to be “other” online companies providing medications from Israel, including CanadaMeds, CrossBorderMeds and TotalCarePharmacy. They are, in fact, MagenDavidMeds.

“These are also our sites,” says Jacobson “which focus heavily on promoting the safety and security of Israeli medications as well as the prices of the Israeli medications.

“Israel has the safest drugs in the world,” he states proudly. “It needs to, in the same way unfortunately that El Al has to be the safest airline in the world. So Israel’s packaging is the safest packaging against counterfeiting and tampering.” Safety, naturally, is a key concern of customers when it comes to buying medication online.

Jacobson says the network is growing every month. “We’re very successful and I’m thrilled.” He credits his success to what he terms “doing the job properly. We take care of our clients, we have professional customer support, and a very good Website.”

Another huge feather in MagenDavidMeds’ cap is that the network has worked closely with the Israeli Postal Authority. “We’re their largest client,” says Jacobson. “We’ve been able to convert their system to English for our patients to track their medications online during the shipping process.”

Jacobson sees no reason why the purchase of online medications from Israel will slow down as long as the pharmaceutical companies still retain a powerful lobby in the US and can block regulation of pharmaceutical prices. In fact, he’s already looking for ways to expand.

“I recently had a senior representative of the African-American community in the US come to me to talk about creating a specific African-American site for Israeli medications,” he says.

In the meantime, MagenDavidMeds is continuing to thrive, and while Jacobson runs several other successful businesses, this one is very close to his heart. “I wanted to have a reason to spend more time in Israel,” he says. “And this was an opportunity that allowed me to do so.”


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