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Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Prescription Drugs and Profiteers

Ban on Imports from Canada

The reasons given by the Canadian government for taking action to stop the flow of prescription drugs to North American consumers are suspect. More likely the measures resulted from pressure at high level; the Bush administration went to bat to protect the obscene profits made by U.S. pharmaceutical giants.

However, American consumers are not going to suffer in the near future. Supplies have already begun from other countries and some Canadian suppliers are involved in making the arrangements. Instead of the drugs being shipped from Canada they are being routed through other countries. The Internet marketplace is full of opportunities for the unscrupulous as well as legitimate entrepreneurs.

The High Cost of Advertisements

One area where high costs for drugs could be reduced is direct advertisements to consumers. Apart from costs the advertisements mostly reward the pharmaceutical industry and not the consumers. The administration is adept at paying lip service to Americans who cannot afford prescription drugs while taking care of those who provide funding for the party. Simple matter of quid pro quo. The big-money corporations win over sick Americans who need prescription drugs. Nothing new.

"But a major question is to what extent the drug industry itself adds to the demand by aggressively promoting drugs to consumers and doctors. In 2000 the industry spent close to $16 billion doing that."

A bulletin issued by AARP contains full details.

Not too long ago, AARP's board took flack for supporting the president's prescription drug plan which provided very little relief for the majority of the sick and elderly. It deserved the ire of its members. However, on advertisements for prescription drugs its position is laudable.

The legislators know that they have a proverbial hot potato on their hands; the runaway costs of drugs is an issue that is not likely to fade into the background. The fact that the Republicans, after years of supporting the pharmaceutical industry's every demand, are talking about the need for controlling advertisements about prescription drugs, is a sign of unease among them. On July 1st, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist issued a statement calling for "............drug companies to voluntarily restrict direct-to-consumer advertising efforts during new drugs' first two years on the market.

The key words are "voluntarily restrict". If it is left to the industry, we can forget about any meaningful steps being taken. One can imagine the pressure, not only from the drug manufacturers but also from broadcast and print media that benefit from huge amounts spent on advertisements. So, how far the politicians will go remains to be seen. Frist is reported to be a contender for the White House in 2008. He will need money---a lot of it. Can he afford to alienate the pharmaceutical and advertisement industries or is he just making some noise?

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