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Rx express to take seniors & patients to Canada to buy lower cost prescription drugs

American Rx Bulk Purchasing Could Save U.S. Consumers Billions of Dollars

On Monday morning, the Rx Express – a chartered train taking 20 seniors and other patients to Canada to buy lower cost prescription drugs — departed San Diego, California for Vancouver. The train will reach Vancouver on Wednesday August 25th, picking up passengers along the way while stopping in dozens of California, Oregon and Washington towns.

Prescription drugs are available in Canada, England and Ireland at 30-60% less than in the United States because those countries control drug prices and negotiate rates on behalf of all patients — a move that drug companies have blocked in the U.S.

“Seniors and other patients should not be forced to travel to Canada in order to get the affordable prescription drugs they need. The U.S. must adopt a national prescription drug bulk purchasing program that will be available to all patients regardless of age,” said Jerry Flanagan of the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which organized the Rx Express.

Both President Bush and Democratic Presidential nominee Senator John Kerry have been invited to join the train trip to hear from Medicare enrollees and other patients about the need for a national prescription drug bulk-purchasing program. 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 any American to participate regardless of age.

The Rx Express will include 20 seniors, including riders enrolled in the new Medicare drug discount program, other patients and small business owners from throughout California, Oregon and Washington.

Among the Rx Express passengers are:

** Carole Jaquez, 78, who has made the trek from her home to the Mexican border several times in the last two years to buy her prescription drugs. She has cutback on visits to her two sons living in Florida, but Carole cannot keep up with the cost of her 8 prescriptions that run between $350-$400 per month. Carole has tried to make sense of the Medicare drug discount card program but cannot find a company that will guarantee that her prescriptions will be available when she needs them.

** Pat & Dave Parker, both over 60, who have seen their Blue Cross premiums and drug co-pays increase by over 80%. Blue Cross blames skyrocketing prescription drug costs as the reason for rate increases. The Parkers point to the $607 million in executive bonuses that company executives will receive in the pending merger with HMO giant Anthem. Both companies have refused to promise that Dave’s drug co-pays won’t increase because of the merger.

** Dr. Paul Smith who has seen the health care delivery system from the points of view of a physician and a scholar. Dr. Smith is also a patient, and takes multiple medications following his stroke in 1996. He spends roughly $1,000 a month on prescription drugs. Dr. Smith has become intensely involved in promoting changes in the health care delivery system, in part by exposing myths about the safety of drugs sold in Canada and efficacy of a national prescription drug bulk purchasing program. “Effective lobbying by Big Pharma” has given Americans the wrong idea, he says, and prevented reforms from seeping down from Canada into our health care system.

President Bush’s campaign has received $820,774 from pharmaceutical companies since 2002, while Senator Kerry has received a total of $239,997.

A group supporting the Rx Express, the Civil Society Institute (CSI), provides an interactive calculator on its website allowing patients to calculate how much they would save if the U.S. adopted policies to bulk purchase prescription drugs.

CSI’s on-line calculator — Click here to view — has tallied $46 million dollars in savings since it became available to patients in November 2003.

“As our on-line drug calculator indicates, Americans are being shortchanged by pharmaceutical companies,” said Frank Smith of the Civil Society Institute.

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.

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