Canadian drug tug-of-war

Helen Palmer Jul 12, 2006
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Canadian drug tug-of-war

Helen Palmer Jul 12, 2006
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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: While we’re on Capitol Hill, the Senate wants to help Americans get prescription drugs from Canada, presumably because they would be cheaper. But US customs can snag drugs on their way into the country from Canada. The tug-of-war on this issue could intensify with a Senate vote today. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has the latest.


HELEN PALMER: Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection department stepped up efforts to seize prescription drugs coming in from Canada.

It’s the latest move in a kind of cat and mouse game that’s cut this cross-border trade sharply.

Two years ago, about three million people were buying a billion dollars worth of drugs from Canada, but the trade’s slumped about 40 percent, says Canadian pharmacy consultant David McKay.

DAVID McKAY: The exchange rate has hit us hard — the Canadian Dollar is up against the greenback — and we have new market dynamics in the form of Medicare D.

McKay says demand dropped sharply when the Medicare drug benefit came in January.

It’s now picking up again, he says, as seniors reach the benefit’s so-called donut hole, the window where they have to pay 100 percent of their prescription costs.

Two thirds of Senators voted for this proposal to help Americans buy less expensive drugs from Canada. But Washington watchers say it’s not likely to survive the conference committee when House and Senate craft the final bill.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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