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Senior Journal

Rx Express Leaves Miami Taking Seniors on Drug Buying Spree in Toronto

by Staff Writers
October 11, 2004

The Rx Express pulled out of Miami this morning on it's way to buy drugs in Toronto, Canada. The chartered train is taking 25 selected senior citizens and others on the trip to highlight the lower cost of Canadian drugs available, the sponsors say, because Canadians bargain for bulk purchases from drug companies and this has been blocked in the U.S.

The train will pick up the passengers along the East Coast to carry them to see a Canadian doctor and then buy prescribed drugs at discounts up to 60 percent.

As a result of a recent West Coast Rx Express, passengers saved an average of $2000 annually off what they pay here in the U.S. for the same prescription drugs.

"Seniors and other patients should not be forced to travel to Canada to get the affordable prescription drugs they need," said Jerry Flanagan of the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which organized the Rx Express. "Bush and Kerry should show Americans that they are not afraid to stand up to drug companies by endorsing a prescription drug bulk purchasing program open to all Americans."

Under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, President Bush opposed bulk purchasing in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law which banned the Medicare program from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical companies. While Senator Kerry has supported changes to the Medicare drug law to allow bulk discounting, neither candidate has supported a program that would allow every American to participate regardless of age. President Bush's campaign has received $871,824 from pharmaceutical companies since 2000, while Senator Kerry has received a total of $349,312.

The Rx Express will reach Toronto on Wednesday evening October 13th, after picking up patients and making stops in dozens of cities throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. On Thursday, riders will meet with a Canadian physician and then go to a pharmacy to purchase their medications.

Among the Rx Express passengers are:

-- Ann Streacker of Winterhaven, Florida is a single mom working for a state agency who, because she was hired on a contract basis, does not have any health care coverage for herself or her child. For Ann, 32, diagnosed this year with a long-term medical condition, the financial strain of being uninsured has forced her to buy her prescription drugs from Canada. She's worried about what will happen if shipments from Canada are blocked and would like to see U.S. policies that will provide a sustainable supply of lower cost prescription drugs

-- Joe and Joyce Shannon of Raleigh, North Carolina had prescription drug coverage for their dozen or so medications through Joe's part-time employer, a local pharmacy. That is until Joe, now in his 70s, fell and broke his hip. Following the accident, Joe went on COBRA to continue his coverage but that became too expensive on the Shannon's limited income. Now Joe and Joyce are facing a $900 per month prescription drug bill and are running out of options. Joyce has limited coverage for generic drugs through supplemental insurance but it does not provide any help for the brand name drugs she needs to treat her osteoporosis.

-- Marion Hicks of Douglasville, Pennsylvania was for many years a hospital chaplain working the night shift. Two years ago, she moved in with her sister, June Preston, who had been an office manager. The sisters are having a difficult time getting by in retirement due to huge prescription drug costs. Both are on Medicare, have no coverage for their medications, and are paying out-of-pocket. The situation has grown more serious as the sisters grow older. They have found a place, Sam's Club, which buys in bulk - 19 miles from their home - that sells medications much more reasonably but the two still struggle to make ends meet.

-- Mildred and Leonard Fruhling of Edison, New Jersey watched both of their children complete engineering degrees at Rutgers University. Mildred, who spent 25 years in health insurance sales, became active in the Medicare and prescription drug debate when she retired, but did not expect the issue to hit so close to home: three years ago her husband's employer terminated their prescription drug retirement coverage when cost increases became too great.

To read profiles of other Rx Express riders visit http://www.RxExpressCanada.org

A new national survey - available at http://www.ResultsforAmerica.org - found that, among Americans with health care insurance who purchase prescription drugs:

-- One-third (34 percent) are either already purchasing or planning to purchase lower costs prescriptions from pharmacies in Canada or other nations.

-- Nearly two in ten (18 percent) say they either skip medications or reduce dosages to "stretch" their medication due to high costs. This percentage equates to over 20 million Americans.

-- Eight of ten (83 percent) say that the U.S. should follow the lead of other nations and negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights pledged to continue to raise the issue of affordable prescription drugs and call on all presidential candidates to support a national bulk purchasing program available to all patients regardless of age.