Health & Medical Readers Comments

Readers Talk Back to GlaxoSmithKline


On January 22, beating national TV news to the story, Suddenly Senior advised its readers of the world’s second largest drug company, GSK, threats to cut off Canadian stores* from all their popular prescription drugs if the drug stores continue to sell to US seniors. See Drug Firms Add Canada to Axis of Evil.

When I asked pharmacist Terry Fraser of the popular Smart Med Pharmacy what he expects to happen, he replied, “I think GSK will try to do something to protect their margins and to recoup their public image. Until then, business as usual. Consumers are demanding access to lower price meds so even if Glaxo does something to prevent access there are competing products for most of their big sellers such as Paxil, Advair, and Serevent.

Paxil can be replaced by any of a number of other antidepressants. Astra has competing products such as Symbicort to replace Advair and Oxeze to replace Serevent. My colleagues actually think these are better products.

Stop Glaxo Now: Consumers Strike Back

I don’t think we have to worry about any other company just yet as they will sit back and let Glaxo set the precedent. Only time will tell for sure, but for the foreseeable future there should be no trouble getting access to Canadian meds.

And here are some of the early letters from readers.

Furious doesn’t begin to cover it. FACTS like the ones you give to your readers are what would ordinarily prompt our quick attention and be enough to make ALL of us contact our Congressmen, State Senators, Mayors, etc. But what a practice in futility.

Indignation should be the rule of the day. What will this accomplish but sending our collective blood pressures higher still? Come on people. Let us get with this one and find our own solution. Respectfully, Jazzy Judy

It’s good to have a voice for Seniors – one that reaches so many! I just forwarded your article about Pharmaceutical greed to several acquaintances. Thank you for the information.

It’s disheartening to realize that so many in our government push these things over on us while beating the drums, waving the flag, and acting pious, when their chief concern is money. Our enemies are not always outside our borders, and being a citizen does not mean what it used to, it seems. Yes, we have the best medical care in the world, I hear, and anyone, anywhere with the price, can have it while so many citizens go without.

I don’t take pleasure in saying this, but my belief is being sorely battered.

Thank you for your good work. Shirley Ray

They cant stop all the pharmacies in Canada….just keep supplying us information and we will keep ordering drugs from canada. Start searching other countries. Its a free world out there. Frank, I am getting my smokes from Russia. Keep up the good work. numseer

I agree that the drug companies are greedy to the core. I think anything we can do to stop their pricing methods and put the pinch on them is warranted. It seems curious that they are ready to cut off Canadian pharmacies. If all Canadian pharmacies continue to supply US Citizens and all drug companies continue to cut off supplies to the Canadians, seems like they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. The drug companies will also suffer huge losses. True, they will continue to over-bill US Citizens who need the medication, but if the US people are unable to pay, there is always Mexico.

A buying group from the US could be put together to go to Mexico to negotiate contracts with pharmacies that can insure the quality of the drugs being shipped. The contract could assure them a certain amount of business PROVIDED that they MUST deliver first quality medication. If Mexico pharmacies breach the contract, the contract could provide that they would automatically lose the business from the US AND be financially penalized as well.

Just a possibility. G. Williams

You forgot to mention that the border patrol is real fussy now about what you can bring back from shopping in Canada. We are , in no uncertain terms, run by big corporations. The big guys at the top of these outfits don’t care if little people live or die. Our suffering is not their concern. Those who are seniors now will be moving on soon & will be replaced by baby boomers. That’s one very big drug market. If a few people are helped now , then , in a few years, thousands will be.

The big guys are worried about that leak in the dike becoming a flood. They aren’t going to let their profits slip so easily.

Eat dog food, generics, or what ever you have to do to pay for medicines. These guys have yachts ,rolexes & other items to pay for. So many of our politicians are bought & paid for that we have little chance. The big guys use the media ( which they now own) to mount smear campaigns , false info, outright lies & twisted religious ideas to manipulate people’s emotions so they can get their own way.

Only real life to life connections between the victims of their greed can offer any hope of turning this around. Even now as we communicate, people are getting smallpox vaccine without knowing the consequences. Those people who get these vaccinations risk their own lives, the welfare of their families & the lives of people around them. While they have the open sores on their arms they can spread cowpox. Cowpox can kill frail seniors, chemo patients & anyone else that isn’t strong enough to fight it. There is no compensation if you are off sick, crippled or killed.!!! But this will ease the Medicare & medicaid budgets . Funerals are cheaper than long term health care . Very few people are going to be careful because too few people in the public realize the consequences.

All this because the government who doesn’t want to give us decent health care to begin with says we MAY be attacked with germs !!! We will be lucky if most of us are around in the spring to get together a protest on what these big drug corporations are doing. Which cold blooded fanatics are going to kill us ????? PAT

“The most motivating force in human behavior is self interest”. Bernie

I’m sure that your column will get a lot of replies to you, and even letters to congressmen, senators, drug companies, etc. And the results? Nuttin’. Sad to say, i’ve become such a cynic, that i ‘ve sort of given up. But fortunately, people like you haven’t…. Great column. R. Watherwax

Although I don’t have the problem with drug prescriptions that other seniors do , I am in sympathy for them as it is very costly to purchase drugs these days. I am a retired Army man and that is why I don’t have this problem. The drug companies should be investigated thoroughly and maybe a few of them jailed. N. Laur

Great piece, Frank. I’m thinking seriously about reviving a wild-ass idea that I abandoned a few years back, on the advice of cooler heads. It’s a pyramid scheme aimed at stopping bullshit in government, advertising and the legal system…maybe an AARP with real balls.
Wassayou? Joe K.

The thing we better do in the long run, is get George out of that blame White House. He is without a doubt the most greedy, unconcerned, uncaring president we EVER had. And may be the last, if he starts nuclear war. All I can think of is send petitions, and demonstrate. Lots of us, myself included, aren’t in a position to do very much of anything, due to failing health. It seems as though the government is all about taking, not giving.

A low income Senior, Anne

Frank, It’s lousy with GlaxoKline.

I am now with AvMed HMO. The rep. gave me a copy of pharmaceutical firms offering discounts to people in my financial category. Merck is on there with others…GlaxoKline does not appear anywhere on this list. Someone ought to drop a bomb on their corporate headquarters…

One canister of Serevent costs (asthma preventative inhaler) is almost $80.00 at Walgreen’s. Flovent is more. (Another preventative I’m supposed to be using.) I tried ordering it from a Canadian outfit set up right near me and they don’t have it. Maybe through an actual online Canadian RX I might be able to get it, but by the time they add on shipping charges, it pulls up the price.

The shipping charges on the online pharmacy are lower than what I paid where I can drive over and order from a physical Canadian RX. (The actual order was for Lipitor and it was a 3 months supply + $15.00 shipping). Also, you don’t have to wait 21 days…I waited 9.

The Evil Axis lies in Washington — we need to revamp the whole administration, but how do you root them out???

One more personal note here, Frank. My job was “eliminated.” In other words, I have no job now.

They did it in style…instead of forcing me to pack up my stuff and leave on the spot for which I would be paid, I had the option of remaining Thursday and Friday. I opted to work the last two days and was glad I had as there were those I would never have had a chance to say good-bye to otherwise.

After all, I’ve been working for years with some of these people.

The job was not a job. Once the company changed hands, it was never the same. Hours were longer, the pay was better but most of the time there was nothing to do. I’m surprised they didn’t ax me sooner.

They also did something else they don’t usually do for “part-time” people; they are paying severance pay. I qualify for unemployment compensation but I can assure you it will be a pittance. Whatever it is, it will be better than nothing.

So, my job search will begin in March and other than standing on my feet and legs in Wal-Mart as a greeter or inventory clerk which I physically am unable to do, I doubt there’s much out there for a 72 year old broad….(sigh…).

Hoping something turns up. Joan

I think we all must contact our legislators, both state & federal and insist that they support the right of all Americans, especially Seniors & anyone on a fixed income, to get their medicine at the best possible price. We’ve been silent long enough! It’s time we make them understand that this country was founded on freedom of choice!! Millie

You are right about the problems related to prescription drug prices. I’m fortunate in that I belong to an HMO through the university from which I retired and only have co-pays.

But I am sympathetic to those seniors who have to pay all costs out of pocket. I am not optimistic about change, as greed will take precedent over compassion. Lobbyists will prevent legislation for change.

The one route that might put some heat on is exposure through the media…using TV talk shows and journalism. Maybe someone would be willing to do a short documentary on the subject.

But before I personally would challenge these guys, I would want to made sure my insurance was paid up. These people will likely play rough if their $$$$’s are threatened. Flora

I have been getting my canadian meds via fmo for over a year. My blood pressure meds were almost $600 for 90 days here in the us and i was able to get them in canada for about $400 for 90 days. I had my doctor change the meds this last time and now i will be able to get 90 days of blood pressure meds for $227 when i order next. If i got to the us meds i will pay over $500 for the same meds. My living expenses go up each year and i wait for congress to do what they claim but i will be dead and gone when they pass the bills. They have a good medical plan so what do they care about the voters that put them in office. They come back each election year and tell us all the things they are going to do and not one thing gets done when they are elected. Joe S.

I should tell you first that I’m NOT normal. I have had no health insurance for at least the last 20 years. I’ve taken responsibility for my health, my supplements, my diet and have no health problems. I take no pharmaceutical drugs. I act, look, feel, sound much younger than 72. I dance hula, walk hill, and stay out of smoke filled offices. What can I say? I’m Wiccan. Susan

Good show, Frank: Was it you that posted the Golden Fleece note a while back? Among other perks it noted that Congress types have full medical coverage for life, which translates into zero personal motivation to change the s.quo. I didn’t verify the data but I plan to. The only motivation for change will have to come from voters and that means tons of email. These dudes do not read much ( any?) of their mail but their people do sort it into PRO and CON boxes so that they are made aware of the numbers. Keep at ’em, my man. J. Wells

Obviously, Big Pharma (oxymoron?) has a strangle-hold on the White House and Congress. Let’s face it, Big Money of all kinds has a strangle-hold, but I guess you pointed that out too. How about a couple examples from other areas.

The Fox River in WI is very badly polluted by industrial discharge of PCBs, etc. They know who did it. Solution? Clean up a small stretch of the river near the North end of Lake Winnebago for about $10 million and leave the clean-up of the rest of the river open-ended. They will “monitor” the river to check on what’s happening, but there is no drop-dead date for fixing it. By the time there it, the responsible corps will be “dead” and the citizens left with the problems. How many examples like this are there around the country? I have only given you a small part of the story. Let me know if you want details.

Or, how about the FCC? We have a lot of respect for Colin Powell, but what about son Michael? He’s head of the FCC and appears to be firmly in the grip of big money. He approved taking XO Communications private, thus wiping out millions of shareholders dollars. This affected many individuals and pension plans. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say this was not a very sanitary deal. The next known event is his nearing approval of Baby Bells’ request to get out of their agreement to provide access to their networks to competitors in exchange for letting the Bells get into the long distance business. Now that they have that approval, they want the competitors out of their local networks. He is in favor, but hasn’t yet convinced his GOP appointed colleagues on the Commission. And, finally, how about Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Nancy Victory? She’s the Administration’s point person for telecommunications policy. Last year wireless phone company lobbyists paid for a private reception at her home. Ten days later, in a letter to the FCC, urged a policy change that benefited their industry. She said that she regards the lobbyists as personal friends (I guess, as opposed to somebody with baser instincts.) and had the deal cleared with the department’s ethics office. However, she failed to report it as a gift on her government ethics disclosure form. She called it “ridiculous” to draw a connection between the party and her letter urging an immediate end to a decade-old restriction on the wireless spectrum.

This is just a snapshot. What’s the BIG picture look like? Think about Defense where the real money is. And on and on. Is it like this in all administrations or is this one just particularly corrupt? Think what a few million dollars and good investigation could turn up. J. Truesdale


GlaxoSmithKline Acts to Prevent Illegal, Potentially Unsafe Imports of Prescription Drugs

PHILADELPHIA, January 21, 2003 — In the interest of patients and their safety, GlaxoSmithKline will not supply prescription drugs to Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that export medicines outside Canada.

GSK understands the concerns of Americans without prescription drug coverage but believes that ordering medicines over the Internet from Canada or other countries is not the answer and puts patients at risk.

“GSK is committed to working with the American government and other stakeholders to ensure that those who need our medicines are able to obtain access,” said Chris Viehbacher, President GSK US Pharmaceuticals. “We support passage of a Medicare prescription drug benefit that will help ensure that patients have a better alternative to the illegal importation of medicine.” GSK has responded to concerns about affordability by providing more than $150 million of medicines free of charge to the most needy and by offering savings up to 40 percent through the Orange Card and the Together Rx card. Indeed, there is no significant price difference between advertised Internet prices from Canada and our price in the US through the Orange Card or Together Rx.

The most immediate step to ensure access to medicines is for Congress to enact a Medicare prescription drug benefit. That issue is currently a priority for Congress and GSK is working to achieve support for this reform.

Additionally, under the Food Drug & Cosmetics Act, the interstate shipment of any prescription drug that lacks required FDA approval is illegal. The Internet poses risks for patients since the origin and authenticity of the product cannot be guaranteed and offers no assurances that patients have access to appropriate physician involvement or access to the dispensing pharmacist.

The FDA Consumer magazine recently quoted Joe McCallion, a consumer safety officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, as saying that, “If you buy drugs that come from outside the US, the FDA doesn’t know what you’re getting, which means safety can’t be assured.”

Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, wrote in November, “If the illegality of these schemes does not concern patients, the risks associated with buying drugs of questionable quality from unknown pharmacies in Canada certainly should.”


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