Q: Medicare Part D is a rip off. My wife and I will pay more for our medication now, because we cannot afford to take the risk of not enrolling. We were getting most of our drugs from Canada, but under Part D we not only have to pay a monthly premium, but also have co-pays, plus much higher prices for our medication to meet the deductible or if we hit the doughnut hole. Forcing us to do this is simply not fair. What happened to the legislation to legalize the importation of drugs from Canada?
A: Legislation to allow the importation of less-costly FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada and other nations is still pending in Congress, and TSCL continues to work for enactment. Seniors like you and your wife who order prescription drugs by mail from Canada faced a particularly tough decision about Medicare Part D. Either you enroll in a Part D plan and quite likely pay more than you do now, or don't enroll and face the risk of paying a steep penalty if you change their mind and sign up after the May 15 deadline.
In addition, U.S. Customs may be trying to clamp down on prescription drugs being shipped to American consumers from Canadian pharmacies. Although "reimportation" of prescription drugs from abroad continues to be illegal, Customs and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials have only intermittently seized shipments of Canadian drugs in the past. Canadian mail order pharmacies and drug-buying programs run by senior advocates reported earlier this year that the number of seizures has more than quadrupled recently.
Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have demanded an explanation. At a recent hearing on reimportation attended by TSCL staff, Senator Bill Nelson (FL) said that Canadian drug shipments were seized from more than 100 of his constituents.
"We believe this unannounced policy of increased enforcement is irresponsible," said Representative Gil Gutknecht (MN) in a letter to the FDA and Customs. Gutknecht also said that the seizures violate the will of Congress, which has for three years denied FDA funding for the purpose of preventing reimportation of prescription drugs for personal use.
We encourage all Medicare beneficiaries, who wish to have the legal right to import less costly FDA-approved prescription drugs, to contact your Members of Congress. Ask them to pass the Pharmaceutical Market Access legislation, H.R. 328 (House) and S. 334 (Senate).
Sources: "Medicare Drug Plan Benefit Some, Others Fall Through Cracks," Robyn Shelton, The Orlando Sentinel, February 2, 2006. "Federal Costs Dropping Under New Medicare Drug Plan," Robert Pear, The New York Times, February 3, 2006. "U.S. Customs Cracks Down On Prescription Drug Shipments," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 9, 2006. "Answers Sought on Medicine Seizures," Lisa Girion and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2006.