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Six Ways to Lower Drug Costs

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March 13, 2002

by Dick Wolff

1) Save up to 66% on prescription drugs by buying them in Canada. Here’s how: Get your doctor’s office to write a “To whom it may Concern” letter listing a) illnesses or symptoms for which you are being treated; b) medications, including dosages, prescribed for those illnesses or symptoms; and c) known allergies.
    Call Carole Kettner, manager of Dr. Sidney Kettner’s family practice in Creston, B.C., at. 250-428-5381 to make an appointment. (A Canadian physician charges about $30 (U.S.) for a brief visit, after which he or she will write prescriptions for the appropriate drugs.)
    When you know your appointment date, call, toll free, the Pharmasave pharmacy in Creston, 877-928-9334, tell the pharmacist the day of your visit and the drugs for which you are seeking prescriptions. (You may elect to fax the pharmacy at 250-428-9304).
    This call is important because three- or four-month prescriptions quickly deplete the pharmacist’s supplies. Prior notice assures getting prescriptions filled on the same day you visit the doctor. U.S. buyers can save up to two-thirds of monthly drug costs, and obtain three to six months drug supply.
    Use a credit card to purchase drugs, if possible. Credit card transfers are billed at the international rate, one to two percent better than local banks.
    Dr Kettner and Pharmasave are only one combination of physicians and pharmacists in Creston. Call 250-555-1212 for British Columbia information, and ask for numbers of other physicians and pharmacists in cities you wish to visit.
    Tips for the border: Going in, you will be stopped at the border by Canadian Immigration agents and asked about your citizenship, guns, drugs, tobacco and fresh fruit in the vehicle. Generally they go no further, but individuals with a felony conviction in their past will be turned away if discovered. It is strongly recommended that individuals with a felony conviction in their past not attempt to enter Canada.
    Coming out - Upon your return to the U.S., at U.S. Customs you will be asked about your citizenship, the length of time spent in Canada, and the purpose of your trip. Customs officers may ask to see your prescription drug purchases. Hand the officer the entire bag. Pharmasave staff is aware of U.S. Customs practices, and know how to package your medications to facilitate your return to the U.S. Most often, Customs will allow you to pass without question, but tighter restrictions at border crossings are now in effect. Some vehicles are called over to inspection bays, where a more detailed look at your purchases may occur. So long as you have the appropriate information from the pharmacist and the physician (stapled to the bag by pharmacists), you should not be delayed by Customs.
2) Reduce the cost of prescription drugs by 50% through The Medicine Counter.     Here’s how: The Medicine Counter is a U.S.-based company accessing the largest prescription drug card networks in the nation. As a member (fee is $89 annually for a family or individual) you may purchase drugs through a Canadian Mail Order pharmacy in cooperation with your U.S. physician without having to go to Canada. In addition you receive a membership card entitling you to savings of up to 35% at many U.S. pharmacies. The membership also includes similar discounts for vision prescriptions. Details for this plan, including an application, may be found at www.moosesexpress.com.
3) Reduce the cost of prescription drugs by purchasing drugs from a Canadian pharmacy over the Internet and having them delivered to either your home or your physician.     Here’s how: Go to www.canadameds.com and follow instructions. It is a sophisticated form six or more pages in length. The patient, U.S. physician and pharmacy are looped together by fax, and I believe a credit card payment is required. By the time the patient pays the pharmacy’s dispensing and flat shipping fees, savings are in the 50% range. The web site has links to each drug showing its cost. Visitors to the site are encouraged to review each of the drugs sought to determine cost and savings.
4) Obtain prescription drugs for $5 co-pay per prescription from an estimated $20 billion indigent drug program coordinated by a non-profit group called The Medicine Program.    Here’s how: Go to www.themedicineprogram.com and follow instructions to download applications or order application forms in bulk. Income restrictions may apply.
5) Read “Free and Low-Cost Prescription Drugs,”     Here’s how: Send for a copy of the booklet listing the telephone numbers and addresses of 85 pharmaceutical companies, an index of 1500 drugs and a list of discount mail-order services. This information will enable you to apply for drugs direct from the source. The cost is $5 for postage and handling. Send a check or money order to Institute Fulfillment Center, Prescription Drug Booklet No. PD- 370, P.O. Box 462, Elmira, NY 14902-0462.
6) Seek help from your own physician.
Here’s how: No doctor should deny at least short-term support to a patient who may be being forced to decide between food and medicine. Explain in a minimal way your long or short-term money problems and ask for his or her help. Many physicians have supplies of medications for their immediate dispersal. Some may write pre-paid prescriptions to be used at local pharmacies. Whatever your needs, discuss them with your health care provider.
    For more information, contact Dick Wolff at dickwolf(at)go.com or log on here.

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