With Senator Ron Wyden coming to Enterprise this Friday to hold a town hall meeting, it’s an opportunity to engage him on the topic of prescription drug pricing, which is holding all of America hostage, regardless of anyone’s contrary claim that America may finally be getting a handle on health care costs. The unfortunate truth is that we really aren’t gaining such control.

In the past, Wyden has been a major player in the area of Medicare reform. Joseph resident Jean Falbo penned the following argument about fixing our prescription medicine problem. Our thanks to her. —RCR

Inequities in the cost of medicine are flagrantly unfair. For example, Medicaid, which serves low income people, and the Department of Veterans Affairs use their purchasing power to good advantage to get their medications at a more reasonable price than that paid for the same drugs being used by Medicare patients. A recent study showed that these agencies were able to get the 10 most prescribed drugs at costs nearly 50% less than Medicare.

People who transfer from Medicaid to Medicare can find themselves suddenly paying more in co-pays for the exact same medication they were taking previously. Why is this so? Because elected officials, of both parties, signed off on restricting Medicare from bargaining with Big Pharma for the best deal for Americans!

You may shop for a health care plan, but depending on what it offers and the price it costs, you may pay nothing or you may find that only a small portion of your costs are paid. You can, and this is particularly true for cancer drugs, find yourself with out-of-pocket costs of up to 11-14 thousand dollars a month!

Major manufacturers of drugs in our country rarely limit their distribution to the United States. They are multinational corporations and one glaring inequity is that the very same product is often very much cheaper in Canada and Mexico. Very well, why not reimport those cheaper medicines back into the US? Because our elected officials made it illegal to reimport drugs from another country!

With the costs of medicine in the United States being the highest in the world, it is no wonder that many Americans are buying online to get a bargain. It is possible, in concert with your doctor identifying your needs and dosages, to work through registered international pharmacies. However, shopping online requires a personal risk assessment. You may get scammed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There has been a steady drum beat of proposed legislation and broken promises to end prohibitions against negotiations to use the buying power of Medicare, a huge market, to reduce the cost of health care. Legislation to address the issue always gets stalled in committee; never reaching the floor of Congress for debate. President Obama promised in his 2008 campaign to work towards reducing costs of drugs. He has asked Congress to act on the matter, but he has hardly used the power of his office to champion it.

Why all the law-making to oppose market competition and negotiation? Why the inaction? I am of the opinion that it demonstrates the persuasive power of Big Pharma to lobby a sky’s-the-limit price on their product. The industry always points to the high costs of research, of testing and of bringing a product to market. That is true, but why does the same product cost different prices in different countries? If delivering a product is the main objective, why are many drug makers’ advertising budgets bigger than their research budgets?

The Constitution guarantees us the right to “Life…” But all too many people have to choose between food or medicine, and what you give up with either choice is likely to ruin your health.

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