U.S. Seniors Aboard the Rx Express Save 60% on Prescriptions in Canada

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U.S. President Bush and Senator Kerry Urged to Endorse Rx Bulk Purchasing

TORONTO, CANADA — While the U.S. prescription drug debate has failed to provide a comprehensive solution to skyrocketing costs, a group of U.S. seniors and other patients joined the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) on a train trip to Canada — dubbed the Rx Express — to purchase lower cost prescriptions. The 25 seniors — some of whom traveled 3 days — saved an average of 56.2% off the prices they pay for the same prescription drugs at U.S. pharmacies. The Rx Express riders would save an average of $1,900 (U.S. currency) per year on the prescriptions.

FTCR organized a similar train trip in August, taking seniors and other patients from San Diego, California through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver, Canada. For more about the West Coast Rx Express visit www.RxExpressCanada.org

Canada, England, Ireland and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs save 30-80% and more off the cost of U.S. made drugs by negotiating bulk discounts on behalf of all patients. The recent U.S. Medicare prescription drug bill banned the program from negotiating bulk discounts. Consumer advocates called on U.S. President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kerry to endorse a prescription drug bulk purchasing program open to all patients regardless of age before the November presidential elections.

“It is outrageous that our seniors, many of whom survive on limited incomes, are forced to travel to Canada to afford the medications they need. One out of four U.S. seniors must choose between buying their prescriptions and paying for food and rent,” said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “Bush and Kerry should endorse a 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.

Under the bulk purchasing model, states and the Federal government could dramatically increase their bargaining power with drug manufacturers by combining current drug purchases for public health care programs, individual consumers, hospitals and employers.

“Americans are looking for safe and more affordable drugs in Canada, but Americans shouldn’t have to come to Canada to get drugs — we need better drug negotiation,” said Flanagan.

In a new report, Crisis and Opportunity: Forging a Universal Health Care Consensus, FTCR announced three model cost-control laws and a model universal health care law. The model laws are designed to address the immediate affordability crisis: prescription drug bulk purchasing, health insurer premium regulation, and hospital market stabilization. To download the report visit www.calhealthconsensus.org

“Prescription drug bulk purchasing is a market-savvy strategy to control rising health care costs that are uninsuring the insured,” said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR. “At an increasing rate, average working people cannot afford basic health coverage. Prescription drug costs are fueling 15-20% and higher annual health care cost increases.”

Drug companies often blame high research and development (R&D) costs as the driving force behind double-digit annual increases in drug expenditures. However, data shows that drug companies spend twice as much money or more on marketing and profit than they do on developing new drugs. For example, in 2003, Merck recorded revenue of $22.5 billion. Of this, it spent $3.2 billion (14% of revenue) on research and $6.4 billion (28% of revenue) on marketing. After other charges and taxes, the company still recorded profit of $6.8 billion (30% of revenue).

To read profiles of Rx Express riders please visit www.RxExpressCanada.org

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a non-profit and nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at www.consumerwatchdog.org

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