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Seniors heading north for prescription drugs

By Scott Sunde
Seattle Post – Intelligencer Reporter

SURREY, British Columbia – Woody Crandall’s epiphany came near the prescription counter at the back of London Drugs.

He laughed and shook his head at the wonder of it all.

Diabetes medication that costs 62 cents a pill back home in Marysville costs only 7 cents a pill in British Columbia. An ulcer medicine costs him $1.03 a pill at home. He can get the same medicine for 13 cents a pill in Canada.

“It’s the same damn company and the same damn pills,” said Crandall, 64.

Crandall has joined a growing corps of Washington state senior citizens who are crossing the border and abandoning their neighborhood drug stores for British Columbia. Saddled with fixed incomes and monthly prescription bills in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, they have found a pharmacy haven just across the 49th parallel.

The savings are enormous. A recent survey by the office of US Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., shows that the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs in Washington are an average of 61 percent cheaper in British Columbia. That includes not only the lower costs of drugs but also a favorable exchange rate.

Business for writing prescriptions “In Canadian” for the Tichis and others has gotten so brisk that the Peninsula clinic will open a second facility a few doors away just cater to Americans.

None of this is startling, especially if you saw the smiles on the faces of Crandall, his wife, Sylvia, and her sister Jean Allison as they sat on a bench outside London Drugs. In all, they saved more than $4,000 on 11 prescriptions.

In Canada, Americans buy prescriptions in bulk — enough to last six months. And they pay the clinic $39 for which they get their prescription rewritten and a consultation with a physician who asks about their health and makes sure they understand what the medicines are for.

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