Local Pictures
Classified Ads
 Announce Births
Email Us
Buy A Copy
Local Links

click here to
The Daily

web page consultants:
Servant Technologies


01-10-03: Canada drug connection
Local senior citizens helping others obtain their prescription medicine from outside the United States

    Editor's note: This is a followup on a series that ran in The Daily Standard last month on efforts to help folks with the high cost of prescription drugs. The possibility of getting cheaper prescription drugs from Canada was mentioned only briefly. It has been expanded here.

The Daily Standard
    Tom and Phyllis O'Brien of Celina say they didn't intend to be activists when they started their quest for less expensive prescription drugs from Canada three years ago.
    But word got around fast that the couple knew how to untangle bureaucratic red tape and do the research that allows them to legally purchase prescription drugs significantly cheaper than they can in the United States.
    Tom O'Brien now willingly sends out copies of forms, a list of dos and don'ts, warnings about dot.com outfits that charge U.S. citizens more than  Canadians pay for the same medicine and information about rip-offs. His own price for advice, typed on the bottom of his letters, says simply, "Help others!"
    The O'Briens became activists when they heard sad personal tales of people who had to make a choice between eating or getting their prescription medicine. They also heard about people who cut their prescription pills in half to make them last longer and about seniors whose prescription insurance was canceled, Tom O'Brien said.
    Tom O'Brien worked for the former New Idea company in Celina and retired from public relations at Crown Equipment Corp. based in New Bremen. He told The Daily Standard the high cost of prescription drugs does not affect just seniors and the poor.
    "We are not poor," he said. "But almost anyone with chronic or multiple medical problems or a parent with a sick child has difficulty handling the cost. Many uninsured people are not seniors."
    Tom O'Brien, 71, and his wife Phyllis, 70, both have emphysema, which he blames on his previous years of smoking. "I gave it to her," he said. "I smoked but she didn't."
    He reported that on Thursday, the couples' monthly supply of prescription inhalers would have cost $405 in the United States. By mail from Canada, they paid $185, saving themselves $2,640 a year.
    With a 10 percent senior discount from CVS Pharmacy, O'Brien said Advair 250 would have cost them $148.97. From Canada, it cost $69.66. Prescription Combivent cost $52.79 at CVS and $17.60 in Canada. He said he factored in $10 a month shipping charge for registered mail.
    But emphysema is not the O'Briens only medical problem. Over the past few years, one or the other has been on pain, blood pressure, arthritis, urinary, thyroid and other prescription medicines. Phyllis O'Brien has osteoporosis so severe that she has a morphine pump implanted in her abdomen. That is one medicine, (along with other narcotic prescriptions) that can't be sent through the mail by law. It is purchased here.
    The O'Briens mailings and e-mails to those who have contacted them asking for help include a worksheet to accurately list all prescriptions. The couple suggests talking with the local physician and explaining what they hope to do. They tell readers there are no savings on some medicines and that they must send or give their original prescriptions (no copies) to the doctors in Canada.
    The letters advise readers to get on the Internet to check and compare prescription drug prices, to spend time checking out Canadian pharmacies, to ask for generic equivalents and to keep a 30-day supply of medicine on hand. It takes about 10 days to get a renewal but plan for longer, Tom O'Brien advises.
    Other helpful advice, given with Tom O'Brien's typical humor is: "For computer help, ask a grandchild like we do."
    "If you complain about drug costs to your Congressmen, don't use e-mail, because they can click delete. Bug them with a letter instead. For better attention, enclose a substantial campaign donation," he said.
    He also advises getting as many free samples as you can from you local physician, checking out veteran's programs for drug coverage, talking with the Council on Aging and seeking help wherever they can.
    "The computer helps a lot," in that effort Tom O'Brien said. He advises people to compare prices and be wary, as well.
    Initially, the O'Briens traveled to Windsor, Canada, to visit a doctor's office and to present their prescriptions from their U.S. doctors. The Canadian doctor looked over the U.S. prescription, and in the O'Briens case, simply rewrote the U.S. one. (To get prescriptions filled in Canada, Canadian doctors must write them.) The O'Briens also noted that Canadian prescriptions can only be renewed once, so patients have to visit their local doctor more often.
    The O'Briens have used the same Windsor pharmacy, called Ziter's, since that first trip. They get followup calls from the pharmacist and doctor and they have never had to make another trip north. Everything is corresponded through the computer   (ziterpharmacy.com) and telephone.
    Another local Montezuma area resident, who got his initial information from the O'Briens, has branched out on his own. He has used at least three different pharmacies in Canada that he located on the Internet. He has never visited a Canadian doctor but uses a doctor made available by a dot.com Web site, which OKs and rewrites the U.S. prescription and ships the drugs to his home.
    Fred, who asked us not to use his last name because he said he is not yet prepared to answer the phone questions like the O'Briens get regularly, buys drugs in Canada for his wife, Ida, who has a severe case of diabetes, as well as heart problems. The local cost for her eight prescriptions runs about $700 every three months in the United States.     "I save at least $100 a month or about 50 percent by going through a
Canadian pharmacy," he said.
    Both Fred, who is retired and healthy, and his wife are in their 70s.
    Shop around, Fred advises.
    "There is a difference in price even in the Canadian pharmacies. Once in a while, you will even find an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) discount card price that is cheaper here < but not often. Even in Canada, you have to be selective," he said.
    Fred is critical of the U.S. government policy and urges sending letters to political representatives. "Our government needs to get more intelligent about healthcare and prescription drugs and more sympathetic to people who need the help," he said.
    "What's hard to explain is why the same drugs are cheaper in Canada than here," Fred complained. "Why is a $4 pill here sold for $1 in Canada?
    "It is pretty easy to get on the Internet to do the research and you can find the pharmacies and download the forms. I'm glad I can do it. We are on social security, have a fixed income and we do not have prescription insurance," he added.
    The Internet research and efforts needed to find the bargain prices are not as easy for everybody.
    Clarence Minch of Wabash also tried the Canadian drugs for prescription but said he couldn't stick with it.
    "I saved money on the first prescription," he said.
    He estimated he saved about one third of the $300 price per month he pays here to treat thyroid, heart and stroke medicine for himself and his wife.
    But then he said the doctor he was dealing with in Canada upped their fee. "They got greedy," Minch surmises.
    "I have the time to research and call around, but I just don't have the patience for it," Minch said.
    For more information on Canadian prescription help, reach the O'Briens at tomobrien02@aol.com.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2002
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822