Thursday :: Aug 12, 2004

Buy a Pill, Go To Jail


by pessimist

Senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes, have been caught in the crusher by the anti-aging policies of the Bu$h (mis)Administration. The Medicare "Drug Manufacturer/Pusher Beneficence Act' has them on one side while the economy in general has them in the other.

Senior citizens tend to be conservative in their voting preferences, which should have been a clue to Bu$hCo that messing with a large chunk of their support base wouldn't be such a good idea - but then, since when did the value of an idea get in the way of shovelling even more swag to those who need a stiff shot of progressive taxation?

Senior citizens vote - more reliably than most other demographic groups, and they aren't too happy right now:

Study suggests drug issues were flubbed by Republicans

Seniors appear to be confused by and unhappy with the first phase of the Medicare reform bill - a drug discount card program that started earlier this summer, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard School of Public Health teacher who worked on the Kaiser Family Foundation poll. "It's so complex that I think a lot of seniors may be taking a negative view of the Medicare reform bill," he said. That could influence in the upcoming presidential election, tipping it to Democratic hopeful John Kerry in a close vote.

Amazing how good that sounds! Works better than Zoloft!

Seniors unhappy with the recently approved Medicare drug benefit could erase any advantage it might have brought Republicans at the polls this year, a survey released yesterday suggests. And seniors apparently dismiss federal Food and Drug Administration warnings about the safety of imported drugs, favoring schemes to buy heavily discounted medicines through Canadian suppliers by a 4-to-1 ratio, the poll by a Harvard University researcher found. "One pretty clear result is that the enactment of the Medicare drug benefit is not the political plus the president and Republicans had hoped for," said Kaiser chief Drew Altman.

Such a bitter pill to chew! Having to suffer the unintended side effects of an untested prescription for change should only be the beginning - and it is.

Minnesota seniors' drugs seized

U.S. customs officials in Miami have seized a prescription drug shipment from a Canadian pharmacy with about 350 orders, half intended for members of the Minnesota Senior Federation, officials said Tuesday. The drugs were shipped about two weeks ago by CanadaRx, based in Toronto, the primary pharmacy used by the Senior Federation.

Even more remarkable than the seizure itself -- reportedly the largest U.S. interception of low-cost drugs from a Canadian mail-order pharmacy, valued at $250,000 -- were the sources. The drugs came from England, Germany, Switzerland, France, New Zealand and Australia, as well as Canada.

That's the first public indication that Canadian mail-order pharmacies are grasping beyond England to find drugs made scarce by manufacturers trying to shut down the lucrative cross-border trade. Since last year, Pfizer , Wyeth and several other drug makers have refused to sell to mail-order pharmacies and forced Canadian wholesalers to stop as well.

The Minnesota Senior Federation and others say the drug makers are merely trying to protect inflated U.S. profits, and they criticize the FDA for helping manufacturers prop up high drug prices at the expense of aging people on fixed incomes. "This situation is really, really abominable," said Peter Wyckoff, executive director of the federation. "The best solution is for our government to negotiate for fair prices. But until Congress finally acts, our program at least helps people who need reasonably priced medicine."

The federation's two-year-old Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program serves about 6,000 members, most of them in Minnesota. The federation now has members in every state, joining to use the drug program. Wyckoff said his organization gave CanadaRx permission to begin procuring drugs from other countries, "and we're comfortable with that. We know CanadaRx, and we know the standards in the other countries are excellent."

So, apparently, is their commitment to their customers!

Harvey Organ, an owner of CanadaRx, said his firm talked with FDA officials before opening the office in the Bahamas July 1. "They knew what we were doing," he said. "We keep talking with those guys, and they listen and smile and then they pull something like this."

CanadaRx began sending out new shipments to affected customers on Monday, he said. And with a new shipper using a new point of entry -- "someplace other than Miami; I'm not saying where" -- he's beginning to clear a backlog of 3,000 orders held up at the Bahamas office after the seizure.

"The drug companies are making this really hard, but I'm trying to get drugs at Canadian prices from countries that match Canadian and U.S. standards," he said. "That means going to England and Switzerland and places like that."

Unlike a certain Air National Guard deserter who froze when action was called for, John F. Kerry is on the go!

Kerry Faults Bush Over Opposition to Drugs From Canada

Hitting hard on an issue of deep concern to older voters, Senator John Kerry on Wednesday promised an overhaul of the Medicare prescription drug law, saying President Bush had personally "stood in the way" of importing drugs from Canada, which advocates say would significantly reduce costs.

"George Bush stood right there and said, 'Nope, we're not going to help people to have lower cost drugs in America, we're going to help the big drug companies get a great big windfall,' " Mr. Kerry said.

He said of the president's opposition to legislation to reimport American-made drugs from Canada, passed by the Senate: "I thought these were the people who believed in the marketplace, in fair competition. This isn't fair competition, it's a monopoly, and it's been put in place by George Bush and his friends, and it's costing you a whole bunch of extra money, and it's wrong, it's fundamentally wrong."

Here at the Valley View Recreation Center, in a Las Vegas suburb of 175,000 people that is the nation's fastest-growing large city, Mr. Kerry won wild applause as he read the results of his campaign's research: Prevacid, a popular drug for heartburn associated with acid reflux diseases, costs $44.27 for 30 tablets in Canada and an average of $147.53 in pharmacies surveyed in 21 states. Celebrex, a pain reliever commonly prescribed for arthritis, was $27.67 in Canada, $95.28 in the states.

With national security and the economy, health care forms the triumvirate of top issues in this year's election, and it is probably the one that most voters feel personally, as they struggle with spiraling costs. Prescription drugs, in turn, are the most tangible piece of the problem, and the new Medicare benefit, which followed a fierce partisan fight in Washington, has framed the debate for the campaign.

Tad Devine, a top Kerry strategist, pointed to the new poll as evidence "that the impact of the prescription drug bill on this election has been tremendously negative to the Republicans," and said the campaign was banking on a backlash to draw voters to the Democrat ticket here and in other retiree-rich states like Arizona, Florida and New Mexico.

Dale Rood, a 53, a letter carrier two years from retirement who attended the event with his wife, Karen, said, "I don't think, the way things have gone the last four years, a lot of seniors are going to stay with Bush."

Richard Miller, 66, a retired history teacher, said Mr. Kerry "hit a home run here today,'' adding, "There isn't anything that he said here today that we can't relate to."

It sounds like seniors are going to be sending George Warbux a message - "Take a powder, George!"


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pessimist :: 4:57 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!