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Seniors “Get on the Bus” to Canada for Affordable Prescription Drugs

Jan. 18, 2000

Seniors “Get on the Bus” to Canada for Affordable Prescription Drugs

Bus Makes Stops at Presidential Candidates’ Headquarters

  MANCHESTER, N.H. – Calling themselves “drug price refugees,” a group of New Hampshire senior citizens fed up with the high cost of prescription drugs has taken matters into their own hands by embarking on a bus trip to Canada, where the cost of their drugs is significantly less than in the United States.

    Russell and Suzanne Woodard of Piermont, N.H. are two of the seniors on the bus. They spend nearly 28 percent of their monthly income of $1,400 on prescription drugs. When they can t afford to pay for a prescription, they cope by reducing their daily dosage or delaying filling the prescription.

    “Unfortunately, we can t go to Canada every time we need to fill prescriptions,” Russell said. “Something needs to be done.”

    The trip is sponsored by Public Citizen, the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance for Action, the New Hampshire Association for the Elderly and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. The groups are hoping that the bus trip will challenge the presidential candidates to support legislation establishing a comprehensive Medicare drug benefit and a program for negotiating substantial drug price reductions on behalf of Medicare s millions of beneficiaries.

    The bus stopped at the campaign offices of presidential candidates Bush, Gore, Bradley, McCain and Forbes.?”The presidential candidates must deal with the drug price issue,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “It is
shameful that American citizens have to travel to a foreign country to purchase prescription drugs at reasonable prices. We need to make prescription drugs just as affordable for seniors in New Hampshire as they are for seniors in Canada.”

    Claybrook was joined at a kickoff event held at a senior center in Manchester by former talk show host Phil Donahue and Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), sponsor of the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act (H.R. 664/S. 731), the leading bill in Congress that would substantially reduce the price of drugs for Medicare recipients to about the level in Canada.

    “New Hampshire voters head to the polls next month in the first presidential primary of campaign 2000,” Allen said. “They want to know what the various candidates will do to make sure that older Americans do not have to choose between buying medicine and food, between paying their electric bills and their drug store charge accounts, between purchasing the drugs their doctors prescribe and living in pain and anxiety.”

    Rep. Allen s bill would let the millions of seniors and disabled Americans on Medicare use their collective buying power to receive fair prescription drug prices. It would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to give local pharmacies the same “best” price for Medicare beneficiaries as they give their most favored customers.

    The groups see the Allen bill as a necessary step toward adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

    “Any new Medicare prescription drug benefit will be unaffordable, both for taxpayers footing the bill and for seniors paying high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy, unless Congress acts to get these outrageous U.S. drug prices under control,” Claybrook said. “Price gouging seniors pays off handsomely for U.S. drug companies, which during the last election cycle spent $150 million to lobby Congress and another $14 million in campaign contributions to make sure that Congress did nothing to halt these runaway prices.”

    The seniors on the bus will reach Montreal on Tuesday night, where they will meet with a Canadian doctor. The doctor will review their medical histories and perform brief examinations, then issue Canadian prescriptions for use at a Canadian pharmacy on Wednesday. The bus will return to New Hampshire on Wednesday night.