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Senior Citizens Cross the Border for Drugs.

Great Falls, Montana

On November 19, forty senior citizens boarded a bus for Canada. They were heading north to buy drugs. Cheap drugs.

Across the border, seniors can purchase up to three months worth of their U.S.-made and packaged prescription medicines. In Canada, the drugs cost 20 to 50 percent less than in the United States. By crossing the border, these seniors saved $3,553.00 altogether on their medications.

The "Run for the Border" was organized by Montana Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Brian Schweitzer. The seniors were protesting what they call price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies.

Senior citizens are particularly affected by the high cost of prescription drugs. Many live on fixed incomes. Medicare, which seniors rely on for medical coverage, does not cover outpatient prescriptions. And the cost of the medications seniors most frequently purchase is on the rise--taking off at more than four times the rate of inflation during the last year, according to Hard to Swallow: Rising Drug Prices for America's Seniors, a report by the Washington, D.C., group Families USA. A September 1999 study by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee staff found that Americans pay 81 percent more than do Canadians on the top ten drugs--including Zocor, Prilosec, Procardia, Zoloft, and Norvasc--most widely used by seniors.

From 1988 through 1995, pharmaceuticals surpassed all other Fortune 500 industries in profit rates. In 1998, the pharmaceutical and health industry spent $86.8 million in lobbying and campaign contributions.

Senior activist Betty Beverly says she worries about corporate ownership of news sources. "It's hard to tell members [of the Senior Citizen Association] where to go in the news or papers to get good, honest information" on any issue, including unfair drug pricing, she says.

Even John Tkachenko, the Canadian pharmacist these seniors visited, frames his concerns over drug prices in terms of corporate power. He says that all NAFTA did was allow drug companies to sell at different prices across borders. Joe Carson, the doctor meeting with the seniors to reissue their prescriptions in Canada, says of U.S. prices, "It's a dreadful state of affairs down there."

For more information, contact Schweitzer's campaign office at P.O. Box 9172, Missoula, MT 59807, or phone (406) 541-2000, or e-mail at
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Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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