Los Angeles Times Profiles Seniors’ Canadian Drug Imports
"By bus, by car, by foot and by fax machine, seniors have set up an expanding underground pipeline to secure medication from Canada," where prescription drugs are often significantly less expensive than in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports in a front-page look at the trend. While Californians and other Southwest residents have long "slipped into Mexico" to buy low-cost prescription medications, organized "drug runs" -- mainly concentrated in New England states such as Maine and Vermont -- have "turned the phenomenon into a mass experience." The paper interviews several Maine and Vermont seniors who have made bus trips to Canada, and profiles a group of Vermont doctors, known collectively as the United Health Alliance, who have created a Web site to help physicians obtain cross-border medications for their patients. The site includes a "prescription-like template" that U.S. physicians can fax, along with a patient's credit card number, to Canadian pharmacies, which then ship the drugs back to the ordering physician -- a "maverick approach" that alliance physicians say has generated interest elsewhere in the country. While bus trips might have been seen a year ago as a "political ploy or a public relations campaign," the Times reports, there now are "people who depend on this method of buying prescription medicine. It's a signal from the market that something's not working," Stephen Schondelmayer, a University of Minnesota pharmaceutical economics professor, said (Mehren, Los Angeles Times, 12/4).