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Orange County Register (California)

Speaker blames drug companies;

Says consumers need to 'fight back'

by Cheryl Walker, The News
October 9, 2003

Is the most powerful reason seniors do not have a prescription drug Medicare benefit the pharmaceutical industry itself?

The executive director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and author of the new book ''Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom'' sees a direct connection.

In a Sept. 17 address to Leisure World's People for a National Health Program keynote speaker Jamie Court claimed that the most profitable industry in the nation is the pharmaceutical industry ''at a time when many consumers are unable to afford its products.''

He said that even consumers with insurance are paying higher co-pays at a time when drug companies are looking for loopholes to slow the release of lower cost generics and spending huge sums to pay for advertising newer drugs.

Yet, he said, the National Institute for Health Care Management found that 65 percent of all ''new'' drugs were variations of drugs already available on the market.

He said the drug companies spend millions to lobby Congress for pro-industry legislation and oppose bulk buying which would allow Americans to get cost breaks enjoyed by consumers in Canada.

As for the argument that higher drug costs in the United States are due to research paid for by the drug manufacturers, Court noted federal funding is a major source of the companies revenue.

For example, he noted that in 1997, 54 of the 84 drugs that fight cancer had been developed via federal funding.

Court's answer to the problem? Consumers need to fight back against corporateering to declare, as the character said in the movie ''Network'' ''I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.''

What can consumers do? Court said consumers must be pro-active, organized (with a group like PNHP dedicated to the kind of change they are interested in effecting), willing to reach out to others who could reinforce and strengthen the message they want to forward, demonstrate to other consumers that there is another better way to do things, increase their political muscle with numbers and more and better information and, most importantly, never never quit.

To learn more about ways to stop pharmaceutical corporateering, contact PNHP, 855-1354, or the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica by phone at (310) 392-0522 or visit its website,