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The Gazette (Montreal, Canada)

Seniors on Rx Express roll into B.C.

by CanWest News Service
August 26, 2004

VANCOUVER -- When Carole Jaquez, 78, stepped off the Rx Express yesterday - a train carrying 25 American seniors seeking cheaper medical prescriptions in Canada - the retired California college adviser had travelled 2,000 kilometres in a bid to cut her sky-rocketing monthly drug bill in half.

Canadian health organizations did not stand in her way. "It's none of our business and furthermore, it's not an issue," said College of Physicians and Surgeons registrar Morris VanAndel.

In Canada, prescription drugs sell for 30 to 60 per cent less than in the U.S. because the Canadian government buys in bulk and negotiates rates, Rx Express organizer Jerry Flanagan says.

"In the United States, one out of four seniors has to choose between buying the prescriptions that they need and paying for other staples such as food and rent."

Stephanie Barstow, 70 and her husband, Carl, of San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, spend $600 U.S. a month on medication. Carl Barstow, a former mechanical engineer, has had strokes, open heart surgery, kidney problems and unsuccessful back surgery. Stephanie Barstow is a retired social worker living with arthritis.

The frugal couple shops for clothing and books at thrift stores but they still have difficulty meeting their prescription drug costs.

Until recently, they supplemented their prescriptions with samples from their doctor, but that is no longer possible.

They hope to get a renewable three-month prescription for a one-year supply. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the importation of drugs from Canada, but does allow people to buy up to three months' supply for personal use.

The British Columbia Nurses' Union assisted The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights with Rx Express.

"Regulations and not having direct-to-consumer advertising keeps our drug costs down and we think citizens in the U.S. should have lower costs as well," said Patt Shuttleworth, the British Columbia Nurses' Union vice-president.