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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Prescription for Trouble?

Despite being illegal, more Americans combat high prescription drug costs by buying abroad.

City Finds a Way continued...

"In six months of operation, our city has already saved $1 million in employee drug costs, and we believe we can save $4-$9 million a year in the future," Albano tells WebMD. "This was primarily done as a cost-savings measure, and it's working out great. There have been no complaints (about drug quality) from anyone and we're all very happy."

But the FDA is investigating CanaRx, the supplier to Albano's Springfield Meds program, and recently persuaded a federal judge to shut down Canadian prescription drug sellers operating within the U.S. -- sometimes in strips malls or other storefronts.

"Many products are cheaper in Canada and elsewhere, but there are laws in effect and breaking the law shouldn't be an option," McGinnis says. "I can also save money getting my automobile from Canada, but that doesn't mean it would have the EPA controls that we require."

Yet he tells WebMD that border police have been instructed not to arrest citizens making personal-use prescription drug buys elsewhere. "It's the commercial entities making money off these illegal operations we're after."

Lower the Price?

Why not focus on those other commercial entities -- and pressure pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug costs for American citizens? "We don't have that authority, but the (FDA) commissioner has been saying that prices need to come down," explains McGinnis. "It's an inequity, but it's free enterprise."

Prescriptions from Canada are less expensive because its socialized medicine allows the government to control prescription drug prices, and the U.S. dollar goes further there.

As for the predicted effects of the new prescription drug bill signed into law on Dec. 8 by President Bush?

"From what I can tell, attempts to prevent senior citizens from getting drugs in Canada go into effect immediately while the new coverage for their prescription drugs doesn't go into effect until 2006," says Joe White, PhD, chairman of the department of political science at Case Western Reserve University and a Medicare expert who wrote the academic book, False Alarms: Why the Greatest Threat to Social Security and Medicare is the Campaign to Save Them.

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