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Fighting the High Cost of Prescription Drugs

October 04, 1992

No one should consider shackling the enormously successful U.S. pharmaceutical industry, "Congress Tampers With a Winner" (Sept. 20). But what good is producing lifesaving medicines and then pricing them so that almost 50% of American patients cannot buy them?

According to a recent survey by the American Assn. of Retired Persons, 58% of Americans over the age of 65 have a problem paying for their medicines. Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) is quoted as reporting that 10% of people over 45 have had to cut back on food and fuel in order to pay for the medicines they need.

Prescriptions aren't like cars. If you can't afford a car you can take the bus. Newer medicines still on patent cannot be bought generically and so it is buy at the market price or go without at your peril.

Is the American pharmaceutical industry gouging the public? It is unconscionable that while both political parties, industry and the medical profession are frantically seeking to control escalating medical costs, the pharmaceutical industry seems almost immune to scrutiny.

According to research by the American Society of Internal Medicine:

* During the first six months of this year, while the general inflation rate was 3.3%, the inflation rate for prescription drugs was 11.2%.

* While Americans scrimp and go without to pay for medicines, the drug industry averaged a hefty 15.5% profit, triple the average of the 4.4% profit reported by most Fortune 500 companies.

Winners don't have to be profiteers.

ARTHUR D. SILK M.D.

Garden Grove

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