Prescription Drug Prices 33% to 80% Lower in Canada Than in United States, Report Finds
Prices for 10 of the most popular drugs in Canada are 33% to 80% less expensive than in the United States, according to a survey of drug prices on U.S. and Canadian pharmacies Web sites conducted by the Associated Press, the AP/Washington Times reports. The survey found that a three-month supply of the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor -- the world's top-selling prescription drug -- is 37% less expensive in Canada. In addition, the survey found that the antidepressant Paxil cost about 50% less in Canada, the arthritis drug Vioxx cost 58% less and the antipsychotic Risperdal cost 80% less. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), cosponsor of a measure (HR 2427) that would allow for the reimportation of U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and 25 other countries, said, "You're talking about a $40 billion savings, just in what the government dispenses." However, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) said that reimported drugs from Canada are not the problem, adding that drugs from other countries might potentially be unsafe, the AP/Times reports. "It is not an answer to this problem to say go buy drugs from Canada, which may be coming from Pakistan and India and China and all those countries we have health concerns about," Breaux said (AP/Washington Times, 11/6).
The Boston Globe on Thursday examined how Democratic presidential candidates are "[t]apping into a deep well of anger and anxiety over prescription drug prices" and "extolling the idea" of reimporting drugs from Canada. The Globe reports that except for retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, every Democratic presidential candidate has said that the reimportation of drugs from Canada should be legal, with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) having been "especially forceful" in their support. Dean said that the business practices of the drug industry, which opposes reimportation, are "anticompetitive," adding, "All I ask is that drug companies compete on price, just like everyone else." Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) said that people are "hot" about the difference in drug prices between Canada and the United States, and they are "demanding a response." Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) said, "It makes no sense to pay the highest prices in the world, and other industrialized countries get the benefit of all that largesse from American taxpayers, and they pay far less for the drugs." David Redlawsk, assistant professor of political science at the University of Iowa, said, "The focus is very specific to prescription drug costs, which are known to be a hot-button issue with seniors," adding, "The fact that [the Democratic presidential candidates] can beat up on big drug companies at the same time is seen as an added benefit" (Rowland, Boston Globe, 11/6).
ABCNews' "Nightline" on Wednesday examined the reimportation of lower-cost U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada. The program profiled Springfield Meds, a reimportation program in Springfield, Mass., and Springfield Mayor Michael Albano's reasons for starting the program. The "Nightline" program includes comments from Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii); Albano; Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D); Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.); Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President Alan Holmer; FDA Associate Commissioner William Hubbard; FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan; and Daniel Walsh, director of veterans' affairs for Springfield (Claiborne, "Nightline," ABCNews, 11/5). An excerpt of the program is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.