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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    Uncivil Disobedience: The most recent New York Times Sunday Magazine
    had this somewhat disturbing profile of a drug reimportation activist:

    I can be very frail if I need to be,'' Kate Stahl said recently as she unpeeled the ripe banana she carried in her bag for lunch.......''Can't you see the publicity?'' she said, stooping over an imaginary cane. '''Frail old lady put in jail because she couldn't afford her drugs in America and she had to do it in Canada.' I even have an old cane that I got at Goodwill. Can't you see it? 'Gee, Officer, I really can't afford a new one. They're too expensive and I just don't have the money . . . honey.''

    The article never makes it clear whether or not she's actually frail. Only that she's rather obnoxious. It's also never clear whether or not the cost of drugs is really pinching her financially:

    Stahl, whose total income consists of Social Security and her deceased husband's pension of $51.74 a month, counts herself among the many Midwestern widows, ex-stockbrokers, retired schoolteachers -- people with time on their hands and dwindling savings -- who have found a galvanizing political cause in the high cost of prescription drugs.

    Social Security benefits are based on the highest income you've ever earned. And widows who were homemakers get their husband's benefits. (You can calculate what your benefits would be here.) For all we know, Mrs. Stahl could be pulling in five or six thousand a month. You have to suspect her income must not be so meager since the reporter hedged on the full amount. To be sure, there are many senior citizens who are pinched financially by their medication needs. (And there are programs available for the needy, believe it or not.) However, it's been my experience that most people taking advantage of Canadian re-importation are not so needy. They are people who use their extra income to pay for vacation homes, or their kids' mortgages. It's hard to feel sorry for them.

    And if, in the end, drug re-importation only serves to drive up the cost of drugs in Canada, and take away money from research, as the drug companies claim, then what has anyone gained - on either side of the border - from Mrs. Stahl's efforts?

    (There's also the whole issue of counterfeit drugs running through these prescription mills that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves.)

    UPDATE: On the other hand, looks like re-importation will soon be a non-issue, thanks to election year politics.

    posted by Sydney on 6/01/2004 07:54:00 AM 0 comments


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