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Import Canadian Prices, Not Drugs

November 10, 2003

Re "Open Door to Drug Imports," editorial, Nov. 6: We don't need to import drugs from Canada. Instead, we need to import Canadian drug prices.

Medicare already has in place mechanisms to control the fees and prices of physicians, hospitals, laboratories and other providers of health-care services and products. Although it is not a perfect process, rates are set to cover expenses and provide a fair profit. The system prevents excessive payments to providers.

If a bona fide prescription benefit were to be added to the Medicare program, the same fair rules would be applied to the pharmaceutical firms. Drugs are an essential element of modern health care. It's time to include them in Medicare under a similar regulatory process that would ensure affordability.

Our system of funding Medicare has not prevented the development of newer medical technology. Likewise, it will not prevent the development of newer pharmaceutical agents. The drug companies will always strive to earn their share of the $1.66 trillion that we are already spending on health care.

Don McCanne MD

San Juan Capistrano

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The solution is not importing prescriptions but mandating fair-pricing practices. If a manufacturer can sell at reduced prices to Canadian pharmacies, the same prices should be available to pharmacies in the U.S.

Everyone is complaining about rising health-care costs, which stem from high drug costs, yet we turn our heads when the solution is so clear. In order to keep health insurance rates down, we have to keep drug prices down. This means that the manufacturers must be accountable for fair and equitable pricing.

Importation is a simple fix to some, without attempting to solve the problem. We have to lower the cost of medications by making the pricing the same for Canada and the U.S. Only when this happens will the costs of health care be controlled.

Charles S. Franklin

Pharmacist, La Quinta

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There is a big controversy over the importation of drugs from Canada at prices far below those paid in the U.S. The reality is: It costs $500 million to $1 billion, plus 10 years, to create a profitable drug, and not all drugs earn a profit. The drug companies have adopted a policy of expecting the U.S., as the most prosperous nation, to amortize the majority of the development costs. If countries that buy the drugs at reduced prices export these drugs into the U.S. market, then the drug companies will either raise the price to these countries or limit their supply.

It may cost only 10 cents to manufacture a pill, but if the first pill costs $1 billion, who is going to buy it?

Gary A. Robb

Los Feliz

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