Saturday, September 16, 2006

Painting by numbers...

I grouched about this a few months ago, but the subject has come up again. The Department of Homeland Security is “cracking down” on U.S. citizens who order prescription drugs from Canada. Prescription drugs. Brand names, ordered from reputable Canadian pharmacies. It is against some law or other, but has not been widely enforced until comparatively recently.

A clear and present danger?

Let’s play a little game of “connect the dots” and see what picture you get. Pencils ready? Begin.

Dot #1. The public record shows that pharmaceutical companies were among the biggest contributors to the election campaign of George Bush and other Republicans running for office in 2004.

Dot #2. Records also show that the number of lobbyists registered as working for pharmaceutical companies is now huge, far larger than in 2000.

Dot #3. President Bush went on the air in 2004 to warn U.S. citizens about the potential dangers of buying prescription drugs from “foreign countries.” He cited Canada as one example of a foreign country whose prescription drugs may be suspect. He did not say how he knew, nor what he suspected.

Dot #4. In late fall two years ago it became public that there was a shortage of anti-flu vaccine in the United States. Bush, when questioned, explained that the problem was with this country’s supplier. The company had experienced manufacturing problems resulting in an inability to fill the order. It was a British country that supplied U.S. flu vaccine. British. Foreign.

Dot #5. After screams from all sides about whose fault the shortage was, Bush was back explaining that efforts to solve the vaccine problem were working, that the shortage would be short lived, and that we would soon be getting all the flu vaccine we needed, shipped from companies in…ready?...Canada! (See again, Dot #3.)

Dot #6. Last fall, according to an article by Susan Q. Stranahan in the current AARP BULLETIN, “Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection quietly stepped up its confiscation of prescription drugs from Canada.”

Dot #7. Again according to Stranahan, officials claim that the new policy is to protect consumers. People paying $115 for a three-month’s supply of Fosamax, for example, are now forced, instead, to pay $75 for a one-month supply of the same brand from their local pharmacies. Buying from Canada is illegal, and “it is not safe,” repeat officials.

Dot #8. A 2004 Government Accountability Office study concluded that prescription drugs from Canada are comparable to those bought in the U.S. Florida Senator Bill Nelson added, “And the fact is, most drugs sold in Canada come from the same companies and same assembly lines as drugs sold in America.”

Dot #9. There is pending legislation to support “legal and safe” importation of prescription drugs from other countries. The bill currently languishes in committee.

Dot #10. Ken Johnson, vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has said that the proposed legislation “undermines the government’s ability to assure the American public” that drugs are safe.

Dot #11. Americans questioning the confiscation of their prescription drugs are regularly led to believe that it is just big government’s way of protecting them.

Dot #12. As drug prices have risen dramatically in recent years, some two million people have looked to Canada for medicines. Illinois led a number of states in directing their citizens to Canadian markets. But not until a governor-ordered study concluded that Canada’s pricing and distribution system was less likely than this country’s to foster counterfeiting of drugs and low-quality products.

Dot #13. Americans in recent years have spent between $500 million and $1 billion annually in Canada where brand-name drugs, including those made by U.S. companies, are often “significantly cheaper.”

Dot #14. This one is an “opinion dot." Conservative Republicans in Goldwater’s day might have suggested that any administration claiming to be that protective was either lying about whom they were trying to protect or sticking their liberal, big-government noses into the public’s affairs in areas of personal freedom where government has no place. Perhaps especially a government that has turned a blind eye to the outsourcing of jobs by so many (campaign contributing) American companies in recent years.

Take a moment to finish drawing your conclusions. ... O.K., Stop. Put your pencils down.

The situation has inspired a silly idea I am here passing along to any one of the writers of Saturday Night Live. Or, perhaps, it fits better those who write and stage the skits at the Washington Press Corps’ annual Gridiron Club dinner and “roast” of all things political.

Here it is: The curtain goes up. Karl Rove is talking with the head of the OBGYN doctor’s organization, as well as the head of the American Dental Association and the head of the U.S. optometrists. Karl is explaining that if those organizations want to stop celebrities like Angelina or Anna Nicole from going to Africa or the Bahamas to give birth to American babies and promoting that alternative to American hospitals, there may be a way. And if they also want to stop citizens from traveling to Mexico, for example, for eye exams and glasses, or for dental work, then, perhaps they should all help fund the reelection of lawmakers who could become sympathetic to their views of protecting Americans from foreign hospitals, optometrists, and dentists.

The heads of the organizations repeat that Americans seeking medical treatment outside the country should be protected from potentially endangering their health. Karl nods, agrees again, and once more suggests supporting a President and legislators who may have the power to help. --Curtain--

Get the picture?

~ ~

45 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That guy on Prairie Home Companion has it right. He says, "They are all in it together."

9/17/2006 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dana ..I've been wanting to commend you ( old Curmudgeon ) on your excellent piece on pharmaceutical companies. It is well researched and is 'spot on ' They're one of my pet peeves ! Keep it up !

9/19/2006 12:01 AM  
Blogger Dayngr said...

Hello! I always wanted to say I had an Old Curmudgeon for a friend maybe I can in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by Dayngrous Discourse and feel free to drop comments as you see fit.

With regard to "Painting By Numbers" you said a mouthful! It is disgraceful how this country takes care of its own (Don't even get me started on our treatment of vets!).

Insurance is impossible to afford if you can even get it to begin with (heaven forbid you have some pre-existing condition like say, pregnancy - when did that become a condition?!).

I don't know, call me crazy but I think every American (note: AMERICAN) should have afforable health insurace (or include it for free like Canada) that includes prescription drug coverage. The fact that we HAVE to go someplace to get affordable prescription drugs should be a heads up for legislators. (But let's be serious here. How many legislators are in it for the people and NOT for the money and the power?)

GWB was and is a businessman who at the moment happens to be our President too. I was not in the least bit surprised to hear his comments regarding prescription drug purchases outside the U.S. and the internet.

(Side Note: I support our President but I don't always agree with him)

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