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Big Pharma's Dirty Little Secret
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Rost, Peter
Date: Dec 26, 2004
Start Page: M.5
Section: Opinion; Part M; Editorial Pages Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

What about all those programs drug companies provide to help the indigent pay for drugs? If they really worked, the Kaiser Family Foundation wouldn't have reported that 15% of uninsured children and 28% of uninsured adults had gone without prescription medication in 2000 because of cost, and 87% of uninsured individuals with serious health problems reported trouble obtaining medication.

It's encouraging to see that the American Medical Assn. recently came out in favor of a system that would allow U.S. pharmacies and wholesalers to re-import drugs safely from other countries. This is exactly what Europe has had for more than 20 years. It is outrageous to claim, as politicians and drug companies have done, that the U.S. wouldn't be able to safely and cost-effectively handle re- importation. A key trade association for European pharmaceutical companies claims there has never been a confirmed case in Europe of a counterfeit medication reaching a patient as a result of re- importation. In Germany, this was verified last year by the Federal Ministry of Health.

In the next five years, branded drugs with annual sales of $72.9 billion are expected to lose patent protection. So we in the drug industry are fighting re-importation because we're worried about the bottom line. But when we have to choose between that and the lives of those who can't afford drugs, we have to choose life.

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