Prescription Drugs

August 21, 2000

Anyone watching the two recent political conventions would have to conclude that one of the greatest challenges facing America is the cost of prescription drugs. Now I don't want to minimize the problem, but if that's one of our greatest challenges, then I think we are doing quite well as a nation.

However, this is a concern. Some of the elderly have to choose between buying food and buying prescription drugs. So what's the solution? Well, for starters let's stop looking to the Canadian model for an answer. While prescription drugs seem to be cheaper in Canada, we have to look at the whole issue.

Yes, some seniors have been seen taking bus trips to Canada to buy cheaper drugs. But while some drugs do cost less in Canada, other don't and many are not available at all. Large numbers of Canadians come to the United States to buy drugs because so many drugs are not available at any cost in Canada.

Truth be told, the Canadian government purposely restricts the overall availability of prescription drugs through a combination of a lengthy drug approval process and governmental price controls. For example, a resident of British Columbia must pay for the first $800 in drug purchases, and the government pays 70 percent of costs between $800 and $2000 and 100 percent above $2000. But the government subsidies only cover drugs approved for the provincial health plan.

The process of approving expensive new drugs takes much longer in Canada than it does in the United States. For example, Viagra was not approved in Canada until a year after approval in the United States. And the Canadian government effectively rations drugs with price controls placed on existing and newly introduced drugs. So if politicians want to deal with the prescription drug problem, they would be wise not to use Canada as their model.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.