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AUSTIN—The Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) applauded Governor Rick Perry today for signing into law a measure to give Texans easier and safer access to prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. SB 410, which authorizes the continuation of the state pharmacy board, included an amendment that directs the state pharmacy board to inspect and designate pharmacies in Canada as reliable vendors of prescription drugs. In addition, the law calls for the state to create and maintain a website to educate consumers on drug availability and pricing from designated pharmacies.
“Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world,” said TexPIRG Advocate Luke Metzger. “Too many Texans are forced to make a difficult choice between buying needed medicine or putting food on the table for their families. This is a small, but important step, to help Texas families afford the medicines they need to stay healthy and to stay alive.”
Texans pay billions for prescription drugs every year. The state alone is expected to spend $9.2 billion on drugs in the next two years for its public health programs. The high price tag reflects a continuing increase in the cost of prescription drugs, which is rising far faster than inflation. This most heavily impacts uninsured and underinsured families and those on fixed incomes, but all Texans will feel the pinch. On average, uninsured Texans pay 95% more for brand-name prescription medication by purchasing in-state rather than from Canada. Insured residents are affected as well, by higher premiums and co-payments. Studies have shown that the high and rising cost of drugs cause consumers to delay or forego treatment of mild conditions, which often develop into serious ailments resulting in more expensive treatment costs and increased risk to life and health.
Many Texas residents already take advantage of importing drugs from Canadian pharmacies, which are priced lower than their US equivalents because of price controls implemented by the Canadian health care system. Unfortunately, this has spawned a predatory market, in which unscrupulous purveyors take advantage of the public’s need by selling diluted, tainted or counterfeit drugs. Without governmental certification and standards, consumers have little protection from such vendors, and little knowledge as to where they can safely purchase prescription drugs. Legitimate Canadian pharmacies are strictly regulated for quality and safety by Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration, and distribute safe and effective medications that meet US standards.
TexPIRG also praised Rep. Scott Hochberg, Sen. Rodney Ellis and other legislators for their work to pass the measure. The law mandates the state pharmacy board to send state inspectors to Canadian pharmacies to conduct random safety inspections, and to designate between one and ten pharmacies as passing the Texas licensing standards of in-state pharmacies. Furthermore, the law requires that the state set up and maintain a website to provide consumers with information on how and where to order prescription medication from state-designated pharmacies.
“This law presents an effective method and a positive step in helping the state and its residents save money and lives,” continued Metzger. “Still, much needs to be done to rein in the high costs of prescription drugs. Texas has the opportunity to lead the states and the nation on affordable health care and prescription drugs, and we urge Congress and the Legislature to continue working to help Texas residents and families in need of affordable medication.”
TexPIRG called on Congress and the Texas Legislature to take the following steps to reduce drug costs:
- Legalize drug importation on a federal level, which will assure consumers throughout the US the benefit of saving a significant amount of money on prescription drugs, without relying on the discretion of the FDA.
- Allow generic drugs to reach the market faster by closing loopholes in existing laws that allow brand name manufacturers to unreasonably delay the introduction of generic competition.
- Texas, its municipalities, and its employers should establish prescription drug buying pools, which would leverage bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prices from drug manufacturers.
- Expand the use of evidence-based approved drug lists, which encourage doctors to prescribe drugs that have been clinically shown to be the most effective, rather than simply prescribing the newest or brand name medication.
Under the law, the state is required to designate Canadian pharmacies by March 1, 2006.
TexPIRG is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy group working for environmental protection, consumer rights and good government.
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