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Date Posted: 09:53:30 12/22/03 Mon
Author: Me again
Subject: Drug plan draws mixed reaction
In reply to: Bennie 's message, "Canada: New Hampshire to put Canadian drugs mere click away for its residents" on 08:48:56 12/12/03 Fri

Drug plan draws mixed reaction

Benson wants Canadian imports
Sunday, December 21, 2003

By SYDNEY B. LEAVENS
Monitor staff


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Some seniors welcome the price relief; others point out that the plan is illegal.


Gov. Craig Benson's plan to let New Hampshire residents buy their prescription drugs from Canada may be facing strong opposition from federal regulators, but among area doctors and seniors, the reviews are decidedly more mixed.

Some seniors worry that Benson's plan is illegal and that Canadian drugs may be unsafe, but others say the governor's plan would help seniors and save the state money. Several doctors and nurses said they applaud the measure as a way to provide more New Hampshire residents with access to the medicine they need while calling attention to problems with the American system that need fixing.

"I think it's a great idea if the state can get away with it," said Margaret Franckhauser, executive director of Community Health and Hospice in Laconia. "This sends a very important signal that you can't get a good deal in our country. And when the (state) government gets involved with it, I think the federal government snaps to attention."

Because Canada's government-run health care system controls drug prices, prescription drugs there cost between 30 and 50 percent less than in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits the importation of foreign drugs, and it has criticized Benson's plan, the first to make the re-importation of drugs a statewide policy. Federal regulators say they have no way to ensure that the drugs are not tainted, diluted and counterfeit.

Franckhauser said many of her patients don't have the option of buying American prescription drugs from pharmacies. About 65 percent of the patients cared for by the nonprofit clinic are on Medicare and must pay for their prescription drugs out of pocket. One in four of her patients have trouble paying for medication, she said. Some search for discounts by ordering drugs through the community drug programs or Canada. Some just don't take them or split doses to make the drugs last longer.

"It's hard for the average person to get access," Franckhauser said. "It's hard to treat somebody's disease if you can't get access to the drugs that are necessary to do it.'

At Havenwood-Heritage Heights in Concord, some seniors were more wary of Benson's plan. Don McCarter, 75, thinks Canada would not be able to support the demand if New Hampshire and other states began importing drugs in large quantities. Without high American drug prices, he does not think pharmaceutical companies would be able to support their research.

"If everybody buys their drugs up there, who's going to come up with new ones?" he said. "I think (New Hampshire's program) is going to get shut down pretty quickly."

Miriam Camaron has good health care benefits paid for by a Maryland school district, where she headed up the department of employment assistance before retiring. She'd like all seniors to have health benefits as good as hers, she said, but she's not sure Benson's plan to import drugs from Canada is the answer.

"My immediate reaction is he's breaking the law," she said.

Gary Sobelson, a Concord doctor and vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, said doctors are largely torn between competing concerns with regards to importing drugs. On one hand, they want patients to receive the medication they need. On the other hand, they also want companies to have money for further research.

Sobelson himself supports Benson's plan. He doesn't believe pharmaceutical companies need to charge American consumers such high prices to pay for research - he thinks prices are higher in the U.S. than Canada because the American government refuses to bargain on behalf of its citizens.

"I think that the governor's exploring ways to save New Hampshire residents and taxpayers and other citizens money by re-importation," he said. "It's also a pretty sad statement about our health care system . . . . (It speaks) to our failure as a country to be willing to do for our citizens what every other country does, to provide for what we consider are essential medical services by collective bargaining that is quite appropriate in society."

Sobelson already helps some of his patients secure medicine from Canada. He doesn't think that the safety of imported Canadian drugs is as serious a concern as the Food and Drug Administration leads consumers to believe.

"A large amount of prescription medication is already dispensed by mail-order pharmacies," he said. "To believe that a drug that's mailed from a licensed pharmacy in Canada is any less likely to be a proper drug than one from a licensed pharmacy in Virginia, I don't think it's a legitimate concern."

Bob Mitchell, 84, and his wife, Marjorie, started buying drugs from Canada a few years ago from a pharmacy Mitchell found on the Internet. The couple spends about $7,000 on Canadian drugs a year, he said. In the United States, their bill would have topped $9,000 a year.

"(Benson's plan) would be wonderful," he said.



Sunday, December 21, 2003

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Replies:

  • More opt for Canadian drugs -- Jimmy, 22:14:44 12/25/03 Thu
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