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Canadians really do pay half or a third as much for prescription drugs

A Sunday Gazette-Mail staffer recently checked the Internet to find out what her prescription drug would cost in Canada. To her surprise, she found that her 25 percent U.S. co-pay would almost buy the entire prescription in Canada.

Why not check Canadian prices for your prescriptions? The four pharmacies on unitedhealthalliance.com provide a reliable choice. We invite you to e-mail comments and ideas to gazette@wvgazette.com.

You will be joining a growing international debate, involving billions of dollars.

"The United States is the only industrialized country which does not regulate the prices of its prescription drugs," said Pat White, administrator of West Virginia Healthright. Prescription drug prices are the main force behind rising insurance premiums, for instance.

Last month, the U.S. Senate and House passed legislation that allows Americans to buy foreign prescription drugs. Congress is deadlocked over the two versions. Last week, the AARP suggested that Congress limit those countries to Canada only.

Then Wednesday, Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, announced that it would cut off supplies of Pfizer products — including Celebrex, Viagra and Lipitor — to 50 Canadian Internet pharmacies if those pharmacies don't stop reselling them to Americans at Canadian prices.

Pfizer is trying to protect the safety of patients, a company press release said. Pfizer is "protecting the profits obtained by higher prices in the United States," AARP spokesman John Rother charged.

Canadian wholesalers say Pfizer's action endangers people on both sides of the border. They note that Canadian patent law allows the government to authorize generic drug makers to manufacture generics if a shortage of a patented product develops.

"All this talk about safety of the patient," said White, who runs a clinic that sees thousands of uninsured people a month. "What's really not safe, when you get down to it, is a situation where people can't afford medication they need to live without extreme pain. Or to live at all." Let's start there, she suggests.

 

Your thoughts and ideas? E-mail gazette@wvgazette.com. Title your e-mail "Everybody at Risk." Send letters to Everybody at Risk, The Charleston Gazette, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301.


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