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Why Prescription Drugs Are Cheaper Overseas

If you didn't get a chance to watch 60 Minutes last Sunday, you'll definitely want to review this must-read transcript (link below) about a segment devoted to the artificial inflation of prescription drug prices in this country. In other words, why the mega-drug companies force Americans to pay as much as 10 times the price for the same drug, made in the same plant and available at a discount in every other country.

What makes this story even more interesting is Dr. Peter Rost, a top Pfizer executive who's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than two decades, believes reform is so necessary, he's taken the unusual and career-threatening step of opposing the mega-pharmaceuticals and his own company in support of selling cheaper drugs in this country if a system similar to one already in Europe were in place here.

The 60 Minutes segment investigated how those prescription drugs "mysteriously" get cheaper in Europe through the practice of parallel trading, in which a company will buy a drug at a cheaper price, for example, in Mexico, then repackage and distribute it to pharmacies in Canada at a lower price than one could buy a product expressly marketed for that country. As you can imagine, American drugmakers want no part of that system, and Pfizer, in a statement by its vice president of global security, said the practice can be potentially dangerous. However, when asked if anyone had been harmed by this method of selling drugs in Europe, the Pfizer VP couldn't recall one...

Sounds like just another way the mega-drug companies maintain their stranglehold over American consumers and their cash flow at the expense of your health, thanks to legislators who gladly take their money, a federal agency (the FDA) beholden to their patronage and a fast-track process that brings potentially toxic drugs to market.

If there's good news to be gleaned from this report, it's that more people in higher places are taking risks to speak out about how crucial it is for the conventional health care paradigm to change, a fundamental goal of my vision for the future of medicine.

CBS News June 5, 2005

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