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Queens pols say seniors fleeced by high drug prices

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Queens senior citizens are paying some of the highest prices in the developed world for prescription drugs necessary for their health, well-being and survival, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said Monday.

Their report compared the prices of five brand-name prescription drugs, which had the highest sales to seniors in 2000 at pharmacies in New York City, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

“It is outrageous for pharmaceutical companies to charge seniors in New York City two, even three times as much for the same drugs as seniors in Europe, Asia and Canada,” Weiner said. “Seniors depend on prescription drugs for their health and sometimes for their very lives, and it’s time for the drug companies to stop playing a shell game with their health and medicine.

“It’s just bad medicine,” he said, “and it’s got to stop.”

Borough seniors have to make the decision to buy the prescribed drugs or forego what might be life-altering or life-saving treatments, Weiner said. Because there is no Medicare drug benefit, he said, many of the aged are forced to drain their retirement funds to receive proper medical treatment.

The drugs used in the study were: Prilosec to treat ulcers and heartburn; Prevacid to treat ulcers; Celebrex to combat arthritis; Zocor to reduce cholesterol; and Lipitor to combat cholesterol.

“The findings in this study reveal, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that New Yorkers are being skewered by inflated drug prices,” Maloney said. “The deliberate pattern of price discrimination being waged by drug companies is all too clear.

“These are life-saving drugs that thousands of New Yorkers desperately need and because of the inflated prices, they are forced to dilute prescriptions, cut their pills in half or in thirds, or abandon the medication entirely,” she said.

Maloney said no doctor would agree with a person cutting or stopping his or her prescribed drugs and nobody should have to make that type of decision.

The results found:

• The top 5 drugs cost 173 percent more in NYC than in France

• The top 5 drugs cost 145 percent more in NYC than in Canada

• The top 5 drugs cost 141 percent more in NYC than in Britain

• The top 5 drugs cost 117 percent more in NYC than in Italy

• The top 5 drugs cost 106 percent more in NYC than in Germany

• Prevacid costs $138 in NYC, but only $45 in Britain

• Celebrex costs $87 in NYC, but only $30 in France

• Prilosec costs $139 in NYC, but only $53 in Canada

• Lipitor costs $73 in NYC, but only $40 in Japan

• Zocor costs $113 in NYC, but only $45 in Canada

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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