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The Trentonian

All aboard for cheaper prescription drugs

by TRYMAINE D. LEE, Staff Writer
October 11, 2004

TRENTON -- A train carrying 23 seniors headed for Canada to buy low cost prescription drugs will make stops in Trenton and Newarktomorrow morning, to add two additional passengers to the "Rx Express."

Funded by the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights, the Rx Express will be taking the seniors to Toronto, where they will be able to save some 30 to 60 percent on their prescription drugs. The Amtrak, Silver Meteor train #98, was scheduled to pull out of Miami this morning and hopes to glide into Toronto Wednesday.

"There are really two goals of this trip," said Jerry Flanagan, a foundation spokesman. "First, to take 25 seniors or patients who can't afford their prescription drugs to a place where they can save up to 60 percent on their medication. And second, to insure that this will not be a problem in the future, by calling on President Bush and Senator Kerry to endorse a national prescription drug bulk rate (buying program.)"

Flanagan said the reason Canada can offer such deep cuts in drug cost is because the country buys in bulk. Which is "a system that pharmaceutical companies have blocked in the U.S... pharmaceutical companies oppose (buying in bulk) because right now they can charge what they want. They are an unregulated monopoly with about five companies dominating the prescription drug market."

The trip is the second one funded by the foundation. The first departed from San Diego to Vancouver in August, and a third may be in the works, depending how the upcoming debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry goes, Flanagan said.

During the first trip, passengers saved an average of $2,000 annually off what they pay here in the United States. for the same drugs, Flanagan said.

"This capitalist system usually allows the markets to take care of themselves until they collapse... like water, sewage and to some degree cable television," Flanagan said. "It's time for that to end, there need to be regulations on these prescription drug companies now."

The foundation says a bulk rate purchasing plan could save U.S. consumers billions of dollars.So far, neither of the presidential candidates have pledged to enact a comprehensive bulk-purchasing program that would allow patients access to lower cost drugs, the foundation stated in a statement.

The Rx Express is scheduled to pick up patients from throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights claims to be a nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization.