Gifts from the North 

Part two

Click here to read part one of "Gifts from the North."

• Abilify (to treat depression and bipolar symptoms) is $195 for 28 pills in Canada and $546 for 30 pills in the United States.

• Cymbalta (for depression and anxiety) is $74 for 28 pills in Canada and $173 for 30 pills in the United States.

• Paxil (for depression and OCD) is $80 for 30 doses in Canada and $116 for 30 doses in the United States.

• Wellbutrin (an anti-depressant) is $165 for 120 doses in Canada and $454 for 120 doses in the United States.

"Ew, you're getting drugs from Canada? Aren't you afraid they're tainted somehow? How can you be sure of the quality of what you're getting? And don't you need a doctor's prescription?"

As I told you last week, those are common questions a friend of mine gets when others learn he's purchasing medication from a foreign country. According to him, people seem moderately shocked by the knowledge but, at the same time, intrigued. They know Canadian drugs are cheaper, but they don't know how much cheaper.

He tells them, "Why would the same brand-name drug that you buy here be tainted simply because it comes from Canada? And who can ever be sure of the quality they're getting, whether they get it from Vancouver or the corner drug store? Besides, Canada has its own agency regulating drugs, and I'm sure they're just as conscientious about it as our Food and Drug Administration. What's more, every site I've been on has required a doctor's prescription for the order. I can't speak for what happens at Mexican online pharmacies, or Indian or anywhere else, but I am confident that Canadian companies have no interest in seeing me die, either from bad drugs or un-prescribed drugs. And if Americans were dying in any significant numbers from foreign drugs, don't you think Big Pharma would be exploiting that as a public-relations bonanza?"

Generally speaking, Canadian drug costs run from one-third to half of what we pay for them here. If you have insurance paying (or co-paying) for your drugs, or a doctor who hands out free samples, you may not be aware of the full cost of these meds. And to be fair, pharmaceutical companies often provide coupons and other assistance to low-income customers, but those offers are usually of a limited scope and/or temporary.

If you're worried that the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is forced to charge Americans so much more just to survive, rest easy. These companies spend millions schmoozing doctors into prescribing their drugs. All you have to do to realize how much profit they make off their products is watch a couple of hours of CNN and imagine how much they put out to run that steady stream of glossy commercials. Believe me, they are not paying for that out of the goodness of their hearts.

• Enablex (for over-active bladder): 84 tablets cost $185 in Canada; 90 tablets cost $465 in the United States.

• Chantix (to help stop smoking): 56 doses cost $145 in Canada; 42 doses cost $179 in the United States.

• Imitrex (for migraine headaches): 12 pills cost $199 in Canada; nine pills cost $268 in the United States.

• Relpax (also for migraines): six doses cost $78 in Canada; the same costs $172 in the United States.

• Celebrex (an anti-inflammatory for arthritis): 60 pills cost $79 in Canada; 30 pills cost $90 in the United States.

• Restasis (eye drops): three bottles cost $147 in Canada; the same costs $432 in the United States.

Why are drugs bought from Canada so much cheaper than the same thing in the States? The answer is simple: The Canucks regulate the prices on prescription drugs, and the United States doesn't. It's a testament to what a federal government can do when its primary concern is for its citizens instead of its corporate campaign contributors.

But seeing as how many U.S. politicians are so beholden to Big Pharma, it's predictable that moves are under way to entirely stop the purchase of Canadian meds by American sick people. Legislation is pending in Congress that would prohibit international drug markets, including Canada's, from even appearing on the Internet in this country. It's called the Protect Intellectual Property Act, and its intention is to categorize all online pharmacies not based in the United States as a risk to the public. Think about it: as though 50 million uninsured Americans being unable to afford a life-saving medication weren't a public risk, eh? It's not hard to guess whose lobbyists are pushing that law.

So that's my Xmas present to you, my dear readers. Especially my dear uninsured readers. My hope is you are in such splendid health, you'll never have to put it to use. But even then, you should feel a little better knowing it's available if you ever need it.

Let's finish up with a few stocking stuffers.

• Evista (for osteoporosis prevention): 28 doses cost $70 in Canada; 30 doses cost $150 in the United States.

• Retin-A (for acne treatment): one tube costs $24 in Canada; one tube costs $109 in the United States.

• Prevacid (for acid reflux): 112 pills cost $89 in Canada; 30 pills cost $187 in the United States.

• Flomax (helps men with prostate problems pee): 100 pills cost $106 in Canada; the same costs $479 in the United States.

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