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photo of pillsjoin the discussion - What are your views on the efforts of states like Maine and Oregon to control the escalating cost of prescription drugs?  Are you worried that controlling prices could threaten new drug discoveries?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline, I thought your program this evening was excellent.

I am curious as to why no one has looked at these so-called "generic" drug makers. A pharmaceutical company only "profits" from their drugs once they have recouped the expense of developing and marketing their drugs. It seems, to me, grossly unfair that a "generic" drug maker can come in, after a patent expires, and profit from another's success.

I think these generic drug companies should be forced to pay a royalty for copying these drugs. AND, if a drug continues to be studied in clinical trials, like many cancer drugs, a generic drug company must pay a part of those costs. That would be FAIR.

scottsdale, az


Dear FRONTLINE,

While the State of Maine may crow over their "victories" for RX pricing, the State of Oregon is addressing the real problem: The efficacy of the various compounds is questionable and not the hype that is blared out on TV. Seniors who believe this hype perhaps need to re-think the effects and discuss that with their doctors.

What we have in this country is legalized drug pushing by drug companies. And Congress, the AARP, and others who stand to profit are blowing this up as a "senior issue." I am a senior & know other seniors who do not "ask their doctors" about Celebrex, etc. The message is transparent and the practice reprehensible. In the past, there were laws against advertising drugs to the public which Congress & FDA dispensed with. Direct to consumer advertising is Legalized Drug-Pushing and Congress not only allows it they benefit by campaign funds. Representing the public is supposedly to be their function -- and it is not.

Whatever Congress passes, it will benefit the pharmaceutical industry -- just as it has in the past. The belief in the pill pushers as effective medicine is a myth -- and can be dangerous to your health in some cases.

Promotion and push create the need -- not the reverse. Ask your doctor.

littleton, colorado


Dear FRONTLINE,

While watching Frontline's documentary on prescription drugs, I thought it is high time that the Federal government enacts legislation to take ads for prescription drugs off of TV.

With all the advertising for these products, they almost create a demand to fill a niche that does not really exist.

After all the doctors should be doing the prescribing, not the television or media.

David Fox
sunnyvale, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am not sympathetic to the whining of the drug companies that they won't be able to sustain research & development if they lower drug prices.

If they would reduce their marketing & lobbying expenditures (e.g.drug salesmen/"pushers," 3-page glossy magazine ads, "ask your doctor T.V. ads, & "buying-off" U.S. congressmen) & spend more on R & D, I might understand better. But hey, is it true that we taxpayers, via the U.S. Government, give the drug companies lots of R & D money?

loveland, colorado


Dear FRONTLINE,

I cannot imagine why the pharmaceutical companies spend so much on advertising in the media. The docs are the ones who need to know about the drugs that are appropriate for their patients - how many people ask their doctor about this or that drug? Is this good pr? Certainly not enough to justify the increased prices that result to all of us!

The fed government should get a good handle on all the reasons that drug costs are so high, control the costs of presecription drugs, and tax the pharmaceutical companies that exceed the prescribed costs.

And investors should examine how much suffering their greed is causing to their fellow citizens.

Bob Heaton
roseburg, or


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your FAQ section on the site showing retail cost chart of comparative 'same name' drugs in the US, Europe, and Canada says it all...

if, that is, the cost differentials you identify are at all representative of the pharaceutical marketplace as a whole.

If they are, and if the content and strength of these listed drugs are, in fact, really the same world-wide, American consumers of all ages, incomes, medical needs, and insurance coverages are not only being used and abused, but are being financially threatened, raped, and otherwise terrorized by those who are this country's real Drug Lords.

Once again, our current government is supporting big business at the expense of you, me, our parents, and the rest of the little people out there just trying to make ends meet.

chris unger
new smyrna beach, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

There's one more aspect of this profit motive that wasn't mentioned. Of course, the company flacks aren't going to mention how high the profit margins are, and they're going to make it sound as though we, the little people, will suffer if they don't keep on making as much money as they are now. However, the reality is that they want to have a high rating on the stock market, not only for their investors, but also for their CEO's, who are really making obscene profits. Americans went to sleep while the foxes guarded the henhouse and now we are seeing the results.

Another thing is that I'm sick of seeing those drug commercials on tv over and over again. If you're not taking one of them, you start to feel that you're outside the American way of life--in the same way that automobile commercials push us to want a new vehicle. Last week, I was pushed by my doctor to start on Celebrex for the rest of my life at $105 a month. Maybe I should move to Oregon.

albuquerque, new mexico


Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel that the program attempted to portray the problem in black and white. The poor cash-strapped old folks versus the greedy drug companies. There is a gray area, and in this gray area is where the real problem hides. As a registered nurse, I could not help but note,that most of the ''senior citizens '' were not very old,and were overweight. Is this a nation of over-indulgence and instant gratification? Do not live a healthy life style,because all you need to do is buy that little pill to cure what ails you! Tell me, what percentage of the best selling drugs , used by ''senior ''citizens, are drugs used to treat ailments that are caused by unhealthy life styles? Need I say more?

Dolores Turnwall
panama city, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline has provided a pretty fair assessment of the problem of high prescription drug prices. However expanding insurance coverage to cover the high cost of prescription drugs is not necessarily the option. Worse, the federal government wants to have its plan run by private insurance companies. Who makes out on that deal? Certainly not the consumer.

The insurance companies are in it for the profits, where Medicare doesn't necessarily make a profit. The pharmeceutical companies will because, just as the insurance companies, they earn profits from the high prices because the insurance companies will pay them.

The plans under discussion have impossibly high deductables as well as caps on what the government will spend until a catastrophic level is reached. What will be the end result? high prices.

I would pose the following: Insurance is the problem, not the answer. As long as the insurance companies pay the high prices, the pharmeceutical companies, and hospitals for that matter ($4.00 tylenol tablets for example), will charge high prices. A better example is of a friend of mine who's wife has multiple sclerosis. She requires an injection once per week. The injection is made by diluting the contents of a capsule in distilled water and then injected. That amounts to 4.34 pills per month. We'll use 4 for argument's sake and to produce a round number. The cost is $1,000.00 per month or $250.00 per tablet. If this person did not have health insurance, his wife's quality of life would be much lower since purchasing this prescription would cost him more than 50% of his take home pay to purchase the capsules.

Why are prescription drug prices so much lower in Canada? There is no insurance benefit for prescription drugs. Folks in Canada pay for all prescription drugs out of their own pocket. In Canada, the market won't support the high prices, therefore the pharmeceutical companies cannot charge high prices.

The pharmeceutical companies, their stockholders and the insurance companies are making billions of profits every year off of the misery of the sick, the elderly and the disabled. It is an immoral and indefensible position. It is way past time for single payer universal healthcare.

Curtis Maurand Biddeford, ME

Curtis Maurand
biddeford, me


Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed your program on The Other Drug War. I feel like you missed the second half of the story. What about the pharmacy companies that mark up the drugs and make several hundred percent on the drugs between the consumer & insurance company. Please check on the Walgreen, Wal-Mart, and Eckerd etc. pharmacy store and find out how much profit they are making. Where I live the profit is so great for these pharmacy stores that there are drugs store at least every one mile of business highway. So it is not just the Merck & Lilly's that are driving up cost of drugs. It is the pharmacy companies that have a part in making the drugs cost to get out of hand. Could you please consider doing a program on how the pharmacy companies determine the cost for a drug and what is there percentage of mark up? Also, is it possible that the drug companies and pharmacy companies are working together and both of them get rich? I can understand the drug company needing to get back their research expense, but what big expense does the pharmacy have to recoup? Oh! The WallStreet Journal did an article on how the pharmacy are making excessive amount of profit. However I would love to see it on your program.

missouri city, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am the wife of physician assistant who is an infectious disease specialist (H.I.V.care)and the mother of a childhood cancer survivor. Although I feel it is important for every citizen to have access to health care and medication, if drug development were curtailed, my husband's patient's lives would be cut short. My son, who was treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for osteosarcoma in 1995-96 would probably have died if he were not in a clinical trial for childhood bone cancer patients.

It is hard to argue with the cheaper costs of generic drugs but AIDS patients develop drug resistance and have to change drugs to survive as well as take multiple drug regimens to keep their viral loads down.I hope for a fair resolution to the high costs of prescription drugs but demonizing the drug companies is not the answer.

Sharon Marx
houston, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I liked the pie shaped models demonstrated in the program. I do believe that using private companies (HMO's, PPO's etc.) will insure that prices stay high. They will talk about low prices and an abundance of benefits and keep prices up through deductibles.

Even with the corruption inherent in government we, the governed, would be better off having the government negotiate prices on our behalf. The purchasing power of the government on behalf of its citizens would actually be a perfect example of the workings of the free market.

Louis Fuchs
boca raton, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

After reading Peter Cheung's letter and Berkeley Bennett's letter, I conclude that if we were all Canadians then Berkeley Bennett would not be able to buy Tamoxifen at any price.

TheCanadian price does not cover the cost of development. Should drug companies be allowed to charge different prices for the same product? Should drug companies be allowed to give drugs topeople who cannot afford them? There is no free lunch. Someone pays the development costs.

Thomas Cuny
bolingbrook, il


Dear FRONTLINE,

I find a lot of appeal in the Oregon plan using an improved information approach to get more value for medical dollars spent.

Medical costs are rising rapidly because almost all factors are increasing costs. ... Why shouldn't there be drug effectiveness studies? If drugs are like other products there's a point when the price to purchase the next increment of improvement begins to go up expodentially. If the expensive drug does it a bit better, it could be purchased by those that could afford it.

In informal surveys of people, the limit of what people are willing to spend on medicine seems to be about 10%. To make medicine affordable and still provide good care, this value approach should be part of the solution. We should also limit drug advertizing to prevent unwarnted consumer bias.

George Pavliscak
livonia, michigan


Dear FRONTLINE,

I just noticed in my latest order to Canada for my mothers drugs that since the Canadian Prices are controlled in Canadian Dollars the recent drop in the US Dollar vs C$ has at least for now raised the US price by about 15% with the Canadian dollar price remaining the same. I would expect Canada to try to get the C$ price lowered.

Jim Zupanic
youngstown, ohio

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posted june 19, 2003

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