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home / healthcare / press releases

NEWS RELEASE
Aug 23, 2004


CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan, (415) 497-1710 cell or Jamie Court, (310) 392-0522 ext. 327

Rx Express to Take Seniors & Patients to Canada to Buy Lower Cost Prescription Drugs

American Rx Bulk Purchasing Could Save U.S. Consumers Billions of Dollars
On Monday morning, the Rx Express -- a chartered train taking 20 seniors and other patients to Canada to buy lower cost prescription drugs -- departed San Diego, California for Vancouver. The train will reach Vancouver on Wednesday August 25th, picking up passengers along the way while stopping in dozens of California, Oregon and Washington towns.

Prescription drugs are available in Canada, England and Ireland at 30-60% less than in the United States because those countries control drug prices and negotiate rates on behalf of all patients -- a move that drug companies have blocked in the U.S.

"Seniors and other patients should not be forced to travel to Canada in order to get the affordable prescription drugs they need. The U.S. must adopt a national prescription drug bulk purchasing program that will be available to all patients regardless of age," said Jerry Flanagan of the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which organized the Rx Express.

Both President Bush and Democratic Presidential nominee Senator John Kerry have been invited to join the train trip to hear from Medicare enrollees and other patients about the need for a national prescription drug bulk-purchasing program. Under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, President Bush opposed bulk purchasing in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law which banned the Medicare program from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical companies. While Senator Kerry has supported changes to the Medicare drug law to allow bulk discounting, neither candidate has supported a program that would allow any American to participate regardless of age.

The Rx Express will include 20 seniors, including riders enrolled in the new Medicare drug discount program, other patients and small business owners from throughout California, Oregon and Washington. Click here to read profiles of the Rx Express riders.

Among the Rx Express passengers are:

** Carole Jaquez, 78, who has made the trek from her home to the Mexican border several times in the last two years to buy her prescription drugs. She has cutback on visits to her two sons living in Florida, but Carole cannot keep up with the cost of her 8 prescriptions that run between $350-$400 per month. Carole has tried to make sense of the Medicare drug discount card program but cannot find a company that will guarantee that her prescriptions will be available when she needs them.

** Pat & Dave Parker, both over 60, who have seen their Blue Cross premiums and drug co-pays increase by over 80%. Blue Cross blames skyrocketing prescription drug costs as the reason for rate increases. The Parkers point to the $607 million in executive bonuses that company executives will receive in the pending merger with HMO giant Anthem. Both companies have refused to promise that Dave's drug co-pays won't increase because of the merger.

** Dr. Paul Smith who has seen the health care delivery system from the points of view of a physician and a scholar. Dr. Smith is also a patient, and takes multiple medications following his stroke in 1996. He spends roughly $1,000 a month on prescription drugs. Dr. Smith has become intensely involved in promoting changes in the health care delivery system, in part by exposing myths about the safety of drugs sold in Canada and efficacy of a national prescription drug bulk purchasing program. "Effective lobbying by Big Pharma" has given Americans the wrong idea, he says, and prevented reforms from seeping down from Canada into our health care system.

President Bush's campaign has received $820,774 from pharmaceutical companies since 2002, while Senator Kerry has received a total of $239,997.

A group supporting the Rx Express, the Civil Society Institute (CSI), provides an interactive calculator on its website allowing patients to calculate how much they would save if the U.S. adopted policies to bulk purchase prescription drugs.

CSI's on-line calculator -- Click here to view -- has tallied $46 million dollars in savings since it became available to patients in November 2003.

"As our on-line drug calculator indicates, Americans are being shortchanged by pharmaceutical companies," said Frank Smith of the Civil Society Institute.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights pledged to continue to raise the issue of affordable prescription drugs and call on all presidential candidates to support a national bulk purchasing program available to all patients regardless of age.

List of Rx Express Press Conferences:

Monday, August 23rd, 2004:

LOS ANGELES -- 9:15am: Kick-off Press Conference
Rx Express Riders
Jerry Flanagan, FTCR -- (415) 497-1710 - cell
Los Angeles Union Train Station- 800 N. Alameda St. L.A., CA 90012
**Meet on the train platform, look for the yellow Pullman Adventure cars on the end of the Amtrak train
**Press parking is available on the upper roadway, security staff will direct you

SAN FRANCISCO -- 10:30am
Rx Express Riders
David Fink, FTCR -- (818) 458-9397 - cell
Outside the SF Headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly --
425 California St., San Francisco (Between Sansome & Montgomery)

SACRAMENTO -- 11:00am
Rx Express Riders
Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles)
Doug Heller, FTCR -- (310) 480-4170 -- cell
State Capitol, Governor's Press Room 1190

Tuesday, August 24rd, 2004:

PORTLAND -- 3:00 pm
Oregon Rx Express Riders
Jerry Flanagan, FTCR -- (415) 497-1710 -- cell
Portland Train Station- 800 N.W. 6th Ave., Portland, OR

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004:

SEATTLE -- 7:00 am
Seattle Rx Express Riders
Jerry Flanagan, FTCR -- (415) 497-1710 -- cell
Seattle Train Station - 303 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA

Thursday, August 26th, 2004:

VANCOUVER -- 10:30 am --
Final Press Conference Announcing Prescription Drug Savings
Rx Express Riders
British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU)
Jerry Flanagan, FTCR -- (415) 497-1710 -- cell
BCNU Offices - 4060 Regent Street, Burnaby, British Columbia

Final Vancouver press conference will be webcast live on Thursday
Click here to view:

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a non-profit and nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org

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