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Washington Post

HOUSE VOTES TO PROTECT PERSONAL PRESCRIPTION MAIL ORDER
From Foreign Countries
What follows is part of an article published in 'The Washington Post', Tuesday, July 11, 2000.

"House Blocks Drug Import Curbs"
Amid growing public resentment of high prescription drug prices, the House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to prevent the government from discouraging the purchasing of drugs in Canada or other countries where the medicines are cheaper....The FDA sometimes sends warning letters to those caught doing it.

The [Food and Drug Admin] gives its employees discretion to permit import of drugs that violate its restrictions so long as they are intended for personal use.

The House approved 363 to 12, an amendment to an FDA appropriations bill that would prevent the agency from enforcing the importation ban.... A second amendment, approved 370 to 12, would bar the agency from sending warning letters."

When this is actually signed into law it may affect the way you do business as it effectively removes most import restrictions as long as the drugs are "intended for personal use."

CNN

DRUG RE-IMPORTATION MAKE SENSE TO SENIORS
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Charlotte Walton, 66, was one of dozens of seniors who used to travel by bus to Canada to buy her prescription drugs at a fraction of the cost.
"There, I saved half the price of what I would have paid here in the United States," Walton said.

A congressional amendment passed by the Senate on Wednesday will allow Walton's local pharmacist to re-import her prescriptions from Canada at the cheaper price the Canadian government negotiates for its national health care patients.

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Walton says the bill will help many seniors who are having trouble paying for their prescriptions.

"My husband worked five years past his retirement to put a few bucks away so we could live comfortably," she said, "but that isn't going to last long with the price of drugs they have right now."

But the man who organized the bus trips that helped Walton get cheaper medications, John Marvin of the National Council of Senior Citizens, is skeptical the drug companies will go along with the measure.

"I just don't think that they are prepared to give up the profits that the American market represents," he said.

Marvin said there are several ways for drug companies to get around the bill.

"One way is to clearly limit the amount of drugs going into Canada," Marvin said. "A second way is to require FDA (Food and Drug Administration) inspections of all the drugs being re-imported into this country, even though they are being made in this country."

Republican lawmakers defended the bill, saying they have closed as many loopholes as they possibly can.

"The drug companies don't like this bill, and the reason they don't like this bill is they think it's going to be effective," said Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington.

But Clinton Administration officials say the only way to guarantee seniors the relief they need is to allow them to band together under Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for the same kinds of discounts insurance companies and the Canadian government have.

Charlotte Walton says she's never understood why she and other seniors have paid so much more.

"It makes me angry, and I've heard a lot comments on it that other people feel the same way," she said. "Why can't we get it?"

NBC News

PAY LESS FOR PRESCRIPTIONS
Everyone complains about the cost of medicine. On a Consumer Alert, NBC10’s Tracy Davidson has found a way some people are saving money. One local woman says she saves about $2,000 a year on her prescription medicine and you could too. Here’s how.
WHITEMARSH TWP., Pa. - Like many of us, Emilie Higgins from Whitemarsh Township has medicines she must take, some for the rest of her life.

“I take the statin drugs,” Emilie said. “I take heart medicine, two forms of that. I take a very effective drug for women for the back.”

But unlike most people, Emilie doesn't get her prescriptions around the corner. She gets them halfway around the globe, over 1,600 miles away in Winnipeg, Canada. She says prescription drugs have become too expensive here in the U.S. But now, to get her cheaper prescriptions, Emilie doesn't even have to leave her home.

“The prices were up to half,” she said. “Most of them were half. Some of them were 35 percent off the price that I pay in the U.S.A.”

Emilie buys her medicine on the Internet..."

“I mail it (her prescription) to them, and then I get it right to my house,” she said. “That’s it. We’re done.” ...

..."It takes about two to four weeks for the drugs to be delivered. In Canada, the government has a cap on prescription prices. That’s why the very same drugs we buy here are so much cheaper across the border.

“If I wasn't getting it the way I’m getting it now, then I would have to borrow from my daughter,” Emilie said. “I would probably do without it or take half of it, I know some people who do that.”"...

ABC News

IT'S BECOMING A CRISIS: MANY TRI-STATERS CAN NO LONGER AFFORD THEIR PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE.
""I have no prescription coverage, everything buy comes out of my pocket"
JAMES, WHO ASKED THAT WE NOT USE HIS LAST NAME, SAYS HIS BLOOD PRESSURE DRUGS WERE COSTING TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR.

SO LIKE A GROWING NUMBER OF AMERICANS, HE'S HEADING FOR THE BORDER: THE CANADIAN BORDER.

HE'S NOT DRIVING, BUT RATHER MAIL ORDERING HIS PRESCRIPTIONS FOR BIG SAVINGS.

James says: "I save about 44 percent., which is well over 200 dollars every 3 months."..."

..."THE SAVINGS ARE REAL, ACCORDING TO THIS RECENT PRICE SURVEY BY THE VERMONT PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP.

-A REFILL OF TOMOXIFEN, A CANCER DRUG, 65 DOLLARS IN THE US, 9 DOLLARS IN CANADA.

-PRILOSEC, FOR ULCERS, 212 DOLLARS US, 53 DOLLARS CANADA.

-ZOCOR, FOR CHOLESTEROL, 70 DOLLARS US, 30 DOLLARS CANADA.

YOU CAN THANK TO CANADIAN GOVERNMENT PRICE CONTROLS.

John Matarese says: "THIS RUN FOR THE BORDER RAISES TWO BIG QUESTION: ONE, ARE THE DRUGS SAFE.

AND TWO, IS THIS LEGAL?"

Yes it is, its 100 percent legal.

IT'S O-K THANKS TO A LOOPHOLE IN U-S LAW.

THAT'S ACCORDING TO A NUMBER OF EXPERTS, INCLUDING FORMER OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE SHERROD BROWN, NOW A CLEVELAND CONGRESSMAN.

THE LOOPHOLE? A CANADIAN DOCTOR HAS TO WRITE THE PRESCRIPTION, BASED ONLY ON A MAIL-IN QUESTIONNAIRE.

Daren Jorgenson says: "The Canadian physician reviews the application for the medication, and determines if the patients should have it."

BUT THAT LEADS TO THE SAFETY QUESTION.

CINCINNATI PHARMACIST MIMI HART SAYS A DOCTOR YOU DON'T KNOW IS WRITING A PRESCRIPTION WITHOUT SEEING YOU

PLUS, SHE SAYS, PATIENTS CAN'T BE SURE IF THE MEDICINE IS CORRECT, OR THE PROPER DOSAGE.

Mimi Hart says: "They assume all of the the risk. There's no one to go back to and say this medication was bad, I don't think I got what I was supposed to get."

BUT JAMES SAYS THE ONLY OTHER OPTION IS SKIPPING HIS MEDICATION.... SO HE'S TAKING THE RISK.

I WISH I COULD RECOMMEND SOME SPECIFIC PHARMACIES.

UNFORTUNATELY, I CAN'T GUARANTEE THE SAFETY OF ANY OF THESE CANADIAN DRUGSTORES, SO FOR LEGAL REASONS, I CAN'T MAKE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS.

BUT YOU CAN FIND THESE PHARMACIES IF YOU SEARCH THE INTERNET..."

NBC News

In Southern California many Americans get their prescriptions filled in Mexico because many drugs are cheaper there. Now the Internet is helping other Americans do the same thing in Canada. But are there risks?
IT’S NOT YOUR typical bus trip for a group of retirees from Tucson, Ariz. They are crossing the border to Nogales, Mexico, on what they jokingly call a “drug run,” to a pharmacy, buying prescription drugs at a fraction of the price back in the United States.
Many Americans are buying their prescription drugs in Canada or Mexico, or over the Internet. As NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports, they often pay 50% less than they would in the U.S.

But now there is another route to cheap meds: online. In Minneapolis, Steve Arundel doesn’t leave his living room, buying over the Internet from Canada medication he used to pay $350 for every month"... now that price is cut in half.

“The savings for one year is probably in excess of $2,000,” says Arundel.
"Why is medication so much cheaper in Canada? It’s because the government there limits what drug companies can charge. In the U.S. they charge what the market will bear.
Canadian pharmacies with Web sites can sell the same pills to Americans at up to 90 percent less.

Just how much can you save? Stateside, a 90-day supply of the arthritis drug Celebrex sells for $197. In Canada, the same drug is $90. Lipitor, for high cholesterol is $241 in the U.S., $132 in Canada, and Tamoxifen, a breast cancer treatment is $287 in the U.S., only $28 in Canada. Advertisement

Some doctors are even helping seniors get cheap meds, faxing prescriptions to Canada. Vermont’s United Health Alliance even supplies the order forms. It’s a grassroots effort, with some doctors ignoring U.S. law, unwilling to make their patients wait for lower drug costs.
“They can’t wait, they can’t wait,” says Dr. Elizabeth Wenner, of the United Health Alliance. “They can die though. And I’m not gonna sit around and think that I waited or watched. I will do something to make a difference.”

It’s against the law to import drugs of any kind into this country. But in this case, the FDA is not prosecuting. Instead it is simply warning buyers to beware. “You don’t know whether the country from which the drug is coming from has controls in place to ensure the product is safe,” says Peggy Dotzel of the FDA. But consumers like Steve Arundel say that until prices come down, he’ll buy Canadian. And he has this prescription for U.S. drug makers:
“Quit digging your hand so deep in the cookie jar,” says Arundel. "

CBS

ACROSS THE BORDER BARGAINS
"I discovered pharmaceutical prices had doubled in the past 10 years," he said. "And as you know, most seniors who are on Medicare have no prescription coverage."
So he looked around for less expensive prescription drugs. He found them in Canada. "Everyone's seen the articles about seniors getting on buses and going to Canada but I believed there must be an easier way," said Bozarth.

After carefully studying the law, he discovered it was possible to place orders over the Internet — as long as there was a prescription and a doctor in Canada willing to review it and write the same prescription."...

"Carollee Hatch, 74, who is battling breast cancer, was one of the first customers. "In Canada, my tamoxifen would be $13.95, plus the $20 co-pay. Here in the United States I was paying $187! It's a tremendous savings," she said.

Hatch also buys her husband Claude's medicines through the company and says she is saving enough money to take a vacation this summer.

Sister Mary Kay Kottenstette, a 64-year-old nun and part-time Spanish teacher, is also sold on the plan. She is taking three medications to treat high cholesterol, gout and thyroid problems. "I have no health insurance, I only make $15,000 a year and I can't spend it all on medicines," she said. "Last year, I spent $1,068 on these three drugs; Lipitor, allopurinol and Synthroid. This year I'll be spending about $640. The savings are absolutely amazing!"