- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2005

The pharmaceutical industry has stepped up its fight against imported prescription drugs, especially those from Canada.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America yesterday started a direct-to-consumer advertising campaign to highlight safety concerns about foreign medicines.

“We believe Americans have a right to know exactly what they’re buying,” said Senior Vice President Ken Johnson.

Drug manufacturers lose out on sales and patent protection when American consumers buy their medications from foreign pharmacies.

The campaign, worth less than $100,000, was timed to coincide with a report released yesterday by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

The report found that 15.1 million Americans abused prescription drugs such as stimulants and depressants in 2003, up 94 percent from 7.8 million in 1992.

Contributing to the problem are illegal Internet pharmacies that sell medications without requiring a prescription, the report said.

Drugs bought on these sites often are counterfeits or come from countries such as Pakistan, India and Thailand, whose manufacturing guidelines are less strict than those in the U.S., Mr. Johnson said.

The ads come a week after Canada’s health minister announced plans to restrict the amount of drug exports.

Women delaying care

More than one-quarter of U.S. women said they did not receive health care last year because they could not afford it, according to a study released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report, released by the Menlo Park, Calif., health policy organization, found that 27 percent of the 2,766 women surveyed postponed doctor visits or prescription drug purchases because the costs were too high.

Nearly four in 10 of them had a chronic disease, which generally requires a lifelong prescription drug regimen, the report said.

“A sizable share of women are falling through the cracks, either because they don’t have insurance or even with insurance can’t afford to pay for medical care or prescription drugs,” said Alina Salganicoff, Kaiser Family Foundation spokeswoman.

About 86 percent of the women were insured through company-sponsored health plans, government programs or other benefit plans while 14 percent were uninsured, the report said.

More medicines moved

Giant Food LLC is moving medicines that contain pseudoephedrine — found in some cold, flu and allergy products — from its stores’ shelves to behind pharmacy counters.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in making the illegal drug methamphetamine, which a national association for local counties this week called the “largest drug problem” for county officials.

Giant expects to move the products behind pharmacy counters by July 17 at 174 of its stores in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and the District, a spokesman said. Giant will remove the products completely from 29 stores that do not have pharmacies.

The grocery chain follows similar actions by Safeway Inc. and other retailers, including Target and Wal-Mart.

• Health Care runs Fridays. Call Marguerite Higgins at 202/636-4892 or e-mail her at mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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