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Meet Greed, Inc

A Senior's Nightmare

by Frank Kaiser
Remember the famous gag by noted cheapskate Jack Benny? A robber demands, "Your money or your life." Benny hesitates, then replies, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."Today, the pharmaceutical industry has a gun at our heads, demanding our money or our lives. This time, it's no joke.

Because drug companies operate as US government-supported monopolies, brand-name drug prices are limited only by the vigor of manufacturers' greed. With prices soaring way beyond affordability, it's little wonder that hundreds of thousands of uninsured seniors have turned North in desperation.

Like every other industrialized country in the world except us, Canada decided years ago that drug companies inherently abused the monopoly power given to them by government patents. Canada had created an industry – outside the free market and fundamental to the health and well-being of citizens — practicing widespread extortion.

"Buy at our price. Or die."

SERIOUSLY SLEAZY LEADERS?

Unlike the US today, Canada and the others would not permit such an outrage. They acted instead to promote the general welfare, negotiating prices with the pharmaceuticals so that life-enhancing drugs would be both affordable and profitable. In other words, fair.

The result? Drug prices worldwide are a fraction what we pay here. Even though Canada's prices are higher than world averages, Americans buying there save 45 percent on average. Often more. Example: Pfizer's Lipitor — the world's most prescribed drug — can cost a quarter the US price.

In 2002, Pfizer's return on revenue was 28 percent (after paying for ads, R&D, etc.). That's five times that of ExxonMobil, nine times that of Wal-Mart, 31 times that of General Motors. It is by far the most profitable major company in the most profitable industry in the world. And the most selfish.

When Pfizer discovered that it was losing around $60 million in Lipitor sales to Canada — this on a $9-billion product — they sprang to action. To safeguard "the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply system," Pfizer* banned exports of all their pharmaceuticals to the US. Today, Canadian pharmacies selling to US customers have been blacklisted.

Let's look at this "integrity" issue.

Lipitor, like most pharmaceuticals, is manufactured abroad, Ireland in this case. From there it goes directly to one of about 20 Canadian wholesalers who sell only to registered Canadian pharmacists. All this under the watchful eye of Health Canada, a highly respected independent regulatory agency. When I receive my drugs, they are still in the original tamper-resistant manufacturer's packaging complete with expiration date.

Compare that with our US system in which hundreds of wholesalers buy and sell with little oversight, and a regulatory body known primarily as a toady for Big Pharma. Your pills come in little brown containers with no expiration date, no telling where they've been.

COUNTERFEITS IN U.S., NOT CANADA

Contrary to everything Big Pharma and their FDA bootlicks would have us believe, counterfeit drugs are virtually unknown to Canadian licensed pharmacists. Of the dozen with whom I spoke, not one could recall ever hearing about bogus drugs found in a registered Canadian drug store.

Let me tell you something about these folks. Because I accept their advertising at the Suddenly Senior Website, I personally know about 40 Canadian pharmacists. Without exception, these men and women see their relationship with US patients as nothing less than life saving. They know that many prescriptions they fill for us would never otherwise be used to mend and enhance our lives. We couldn't afford them.

As one B.C. druggist told me yesterday, "If we force US prices down to the point we go out of business, we've done our job."

Compare that attitude with what our Surgeon General said in this week's barrage of government deceit: "[Importing drugs] is an extraordinarily complex problem that challenges the best minds in the field."

The only "problem" I see is my government placing thuggish and fanatical profiteering over your good health and mine.

I'm told that many Canadian drug stores will run out of Lipitor and other Pfizer products in a matter of months. Greed has so blinded Pfizer that they'd rather lose millions in Canadian sales than part with a nickel in US profits. And to hell with Americans who find their bloated prices unaffordable.

What can we do?

  • Ask your doctor about substitutes. For example, Pravastatin, Lovastatin, and Simvastatin are all generics with cholesterol-busting qualities similar to Pfizer's Lipitor.
  • Quit buying Pfizer products altogether, including over-the-counter Benadryl, Cortisone, Desitin, e.p.t., Listerine, Lubriderm, Neosporin, Rolaids, Sudafed, and Visine.
  • Call Pfizer's toll-free consumer hotline at 1-800-223-0182 and share your views to the live operator.

With their minds as closed as Jack Benny's safe, impacting Pfizer's greed may be the only way to remove their deadly gun from our heads.

* GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Lilly and Wyeth are taking similar actions.

Copyright © 2004 —Frank Kaiser


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