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Read Making a Killing

home / healthcare / in the media

Savannah Morning News
Sep 21, 2004

by Anne Hart

Seniors disgusted with prescription drug prices board train to Canada

The Rx Express from Miami to Canada, via Savannah, is a way for seniors to thumb their noses at the U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
All aboard the drug train.

A privately chartered train toting senior citizens from Florida to Canada to buy drugs will chug through Savannah next month to protest skyrocketing U.S. drug prices. Area residents are invited to sign up now for the few remaining seats.

The goal of the "Rx Express," paid for and organized by a California-based consumer advocacy group, is to demonstrate the huge price disparity between prescription meds in the United States versus those in Canada.

A three-month supply of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, for example, costs $214 in the United States and $162 in Canada, because of the Canadian government's price controls, The Associated Press reports.

Crossing the border to buy such U.S.-made drugs isn't illegal, said Jerry Flanagan, health care director for The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, the group organizing the Miami-Toronto trip.

While importation is banned, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows people to buy up to three months of drugs for personal use with a U.S. prescription.

The FDA opposes prescription large-scale drug importation because it says it cannot guarantee the drugs are safe.

"The most expensive medication is the one that doesn't work or, even worse, can cause harm,'' said Andrea McKeever, assistant professor in the school of pharmacy at South University in Savannah, echoing the American Pharmacy Association's position.

But buying drugs over the Internet is more of a safety risk than traveling to Canada to purchase the meds, said Savannah pharmacist John McKinnon at Lo-Cost Pharmacy.

"The Internet is where the big concern is because no one can police that,'' McKinnon said.

Seniors shouldn't have to travel to get their drugs from Canada - where the drugs cost 30 to 60 percent less than in the United States, Flanagan said. That's why the foundation wants the government to put price controls on drugs to reduce their cost.

Such price controls would be disastrous, McKinnon said, if it caused pharmaceuticals to cut back on research and development.

But Flanagan counters that price controls will mean pharmaceuticals will have to cut back on advertising - not necessarily research.

"Where most of our consumer dollars is going is to finance the marketing of the newest blockbuster drugs,'' Flanagan said. "Companies spend two to three times more on advertising and marketing their drugs than on research.''

Rx Express

Limited seats are available on the protest train trip to Canada to purchase lower-priced prescription drugs. Riders will be chosen after a brief phone interview.

The train will pick up Savannah passengers at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11.

To reserve a seat, call The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights at (877) 791-2225 or send e-mail to rxexpress@consumerwatchdog.org.

For more information, visit www.consumerwatchdog.org.

Rx Express riders must bring valid prescriptions from their U.S. doctors. The foundation covers the majority of the trip's costs.

Drug savings

Other ways to find cheaper prescription drugs include buying generic drugs, enrolling in the Medicare prescription drug benefit program or taking advantage of patience-assistance programs. For more information, visit www.needymeds.com and www.rxassist.org


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