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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N. Carolina)

Free trip to Canada for seniors; drug purchase necessary

by Jean P. Fisher, Stff Writer
Sep 18, 2004

Want low-cost prescription drugs and a free trip to Canada to buy them? A California consumer group will make it happen for a handful of lucky senior citizens, including some from North Carolina.

Starting Oct. 11, the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights will hitch two private rail cars to the back of an Amtrak train in Miami. The caravan will wind its way up the eastern seaboard, picking up folks along the way. In New York, travelers will board Amtrak's "Maple Leaf" train to Toronto, where seniors will be seen by a Canadian doctor who will write prescriptions for their medicines. The foundation will cover the cost of train fare, lodging, most meals and airfare back home for each rider.

Seniors buy their own prescription drugs. On a similar West Coast trip to Vancouver, the foundation said seniors saved an average of 59 percent.

The foundation is all for helping seniors get cheaper drugs in Canada. But Jerry Flanagan, the group's health care director, hopes the jaunt will send a larger message about a hot-button political issue. "Canada, as well as Germany, England, France, control prices by negotiating directly with the drug companies," he said. "It's what we think we should be doing."

WHEN: Oct. 11-14. In North Carolina, the train will stop in Greenville and Rocky Mount. However, seniors throughout the state may request a seat.

WHO RIDES: Space is very limited -- most likely, no more than one or two North Carolinians will be chosen. The Foundation will give preference to seniors with significant prescription drug expenses or who spend a high proportion of income on medicines.

DETAILS: Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights; David Fink at (310)392-0522, ext. 320, or david@consumerwatchdog.org; or Jerry Flanagan at (310)392-0522, ext. 319, or Jerry@consumerwatchdog.org